Free Markets, Free People
Funny stuff. All of us out here who have been questioning the accuracy of various presidential polls and being called “poll truthers” (lord help you if you question the establishment or authority) now see a poll that favors the GOP candidate being called into question by none other than the Washington Post.
The Pew Research Center for the Public and the Press released a poll that puts Mitt Romney in the lead for the first time in their polling (Rasmussen also released a poll with Romney in the lead).
The Pew poll keys off the first debate, Romney’s big win and says:
In turn, Romney has drawn even with Obama in the presidential race among registered voters (46% to 46%) after trailing by nine points (42% to 51%) in September. Among likely voters, Romney holds a slight 49% to 45% edge over Obama. He trailed by eight points among likely voters last month.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Oct. 4-7 among 1,511 adults, including 1,201 registered voters (1,112 likely voters), finds that 67% of Romney’s backers support him strongly, up from 56% last month. For the first time in the campaign, Romney draws as much strong support as does Obama.
“Likely voters”, as we’ve mentioned in the past, is the key demographic. Forget registered voters. Among likely voters, Pew is recording a 12 point swing. That’s pretty significant. You can hit the Pew link to go through all the particulars.
So what’s WaPo’s disagreement with the poll? Well they don’t really “disagree” so much as imply there might be a problem with the poll’s makeup (you know, the same thing we “poll truthers” have been talking about for months):
That pesky party ID question: The Pew sample for this poll was 36 percent Republican, 31 percent Democratic and 30 percent independent. That’s a major shift from the organization’s September poll which was 29 percent Republican, 39 percent Democratic and 30 percent independent. In the 2010 election, the electorate was 36 percent Republican, 36 percent Democratic and 27 percent independent, according to exit polling. In 2008, 39 percent of the electorate identified as Democrats while 32 percent said they were Republicans and 29 percent said they were independents.
So in this poll, Pew was R+5. That’s different than the D+8 they ran in September. There’s you 12 point shift. Of course in 2010, they were completely wrong calling the D/R split even. Republicans ran a historic blow out during that election taking 60 seats in the House. In 2008, they were probably slightly undercounting self-identified Democrats. But not this time as Pew points out in their survey. Enthusiasm among GOP voters is up. It isn’t up among Democrats. And that, one supposes, is the Pew justification for plussing the GOP on this poll.
September polls are notoriously inaccurate. Polling companies, at least those who want to continue to be taken seriously, refine their models as they approach an election. This poll appears to be an example of that. As should be obvious to anyone who pays attention, the excitement, support and enthusiasm Obama enjoyed in 2008 doesn’t exist in this election, at least not anywhere to the degree it did then. That means the ratios have changed. Whether or not R+5 is the correct weight polls should give the GOP vote remains to be seen, but it certainly makes a lot more sense than D+8, the number we “poll truthers” were questioning all along.
If you’re a political junkie, then you’ll be interested in this new voter typology that the Pew Research Center has put together describing how the voting population is now configured:
The description of each of these is as follows:
The most visible shift in the political landscape since Pew Research’s previous political typology in early 2005 is the emergence of a single bloc of across-the-board conservatives. The long-standing divide between economic, pro-business conservatives and social conservatives has blurred. Today, Staunch Conservatives take extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues – on the size and role of government, on economics, foreign policy, social issues and moral concerns. Most agree with the Tea Party and even more very strongly disapprove of Barack Obama’s job performance. A second core group of Republicans – Main Street Republicans – also is conservative, but less consistently so.
On the left, Solid Liberals express diametrically opposing views from the Staunch Conservatives on virtually every issue. While Solid Liberals are predominantly white, minorities make up greater shares of New Coalition Democrats – who include nearly equal numbers 0f whites, African Americans and Hispanics – and Hard-Pressed Democrats, who are about a third African American. Unlike Solid Liberals, both of these last two groups are highly religious and socially conservative. New Coalition Democrats are distinguished by their upbeat attitudes in the face of economic struggles.
Independents have played a determinative role in the last three national elections. But the three groups in the center of the political typology have very little in common, aside from their avoidance of partisan labels. Libertarians and Post-Moderns are largely white, well-educated and affluent. They also share a relatively secular outlook on some social issues, including homosexuality and abortion. But Republican-oriented Libertarians are far more critical of government, less supportive of environmental regulations, and more supportive of business than are Post-Moderns, most of whom lean Democratic.
Disaffecteds, the other main group of independents, are financially stressed and cynical about politics. Most lean to the Republican Party, though they differ from the core Republican groups in their support for increased government aid to the poor. Another group in the center, Bystanders, largely consign themselves to the political sidelines and for the most part are not included in this analysis.
On reflection, I think it is a pretty fair description of the electorate as it stands today. Pew’s article contains links to previous typologies it has published, this being their latest. The obvious point, after reviewing this, is that politicians of today must somehow satisfy their core constituencies but be able to reach out to the “independents” in a meaningful way in order to garner their votes. And, if you read the descriptions of each, there are plenty of clues as to how to do that. But there are also some possible show stoppers.
I don’t really have a particular problem with the breakdown of voting groups but – and this is just a sense – I’m not particularly convinced by their numbers. For example, I have difficulty believing that “Solid Liberals” outnumber “Staunch Conservatives”. That’s just not been the trend, and in my opinion, it is even less likely given the condition of our economy and our government’s finances.
Some key findings of the study:
More than in the recent past, attitudes about government separate Democrats from Republicans, and it is these beliefs that are most correlated with political preferences looking ahead to 2012.
Couple that with:
The GOP still enjoys an intensity advantage, which proved to be a crucial factor in the Republicans’ victories in the 2010 midterm elections.
Obviously that’s a perishable commodity that can be lost at any time.
Now add the independents and their attitudes:
Looking through that list, you can see that the “Libertarian” group has a natural affinity for the right as do most “Disaffected”. Even the “Post Moderns” group up in the majority “Moderate” area and not the liberal area. But look at what one could consider “wedge” issues and how they line up. It is all over the place and many of the answers are diametrically opposed to their supposed natural alliances. Probably the most disturbing to me is the “Business corporations make too much profit.”
Anyway, that’s a pretty heavy mine field politically speaking. But you’re also looking at (if you accept Pew’s numbers) 34% of the voting population – the obvious difference in any election.
By the way, click on over to the study and look at the comparison between the GOP and Democratic groups and how they answer the “Business corporations make too much profit”. What you’ll see on that particular issue are opportunities for the GOP among New Coalition Dems and for the Democrats among “Main St. Republicans”. On the latter, I’m not sure how “main street” of a Republican you are if you think that to be true about business corporations, but there it is.
Finally, some other findings to chew on. They illustrate the complexity of the electorate and the difficulty in attempting to address various issues:
- Majorities in most typology groups say the country will need both to cut spending and raise taxes to reduce the budget deficit. Staunch Conservatives are the exception – 59% say the focus should only be on cutting spending.
- Core GOP groups largely prefer elected officials who stick to their positions rather than those who compromise. Solid Liberals overwhelmingly prefer officials who compromise, but the other two Democratic groups do not.
- For Staunch Conservatives it is still “Drill, Baby, Drill” – 72% say that expanding exploration for and production of oil, coal and natural gas is the more important energy priority. In most other typology groups, majorities say developing alternatives is more important.
- Republican groups say the Supreme Court should base rulings on its interpretation of the Constitution “as originally written.” Democratic groups say the Court should base its rulings on what the Constitution means today.
- Main Street Republicans and GOP-oriented Disaffecteds are far more likely than Staunch Conservatives or Libertarians to favor a significant government role in reducing childhood obesity.
- Solid Liberals are the only typology group in which a majority (54%) views democracy as more important than stability in the Middle East. Other groups say stable governments are more important or are divided on this question.
- New Coalition Democrats are more likely than the other core Democratic groups to say that most people can make it if they are willing to work hard.
- More Staunch Conservatives regularly watch Fox News than regularly watch CNN, MSNBC and the nightly network news broadcasts combined.
- There are few points on which all the typology groups can agree, but cynicism about politicians is one. Majorities across all eight groups, as well as Bystanders, say elected officials lose touch with the people pretty quickly.
- Staunch Conservatives overwhelmingly want to get tougher with China on economic issues. Across other typology groups, there is far more support for building stronger economic relations with China.
- The allied airstrikes in Libya divide Democratic groups. Solid Liberals and New Coalition Democrats favor the airstrikes, but about as many Hard-Pressed Democrats favor as oppose the operation.
- Michelle Obama is popular with Main Street Republicans, as well as most other typology groups. But Staunch Conservatives view the first lady unfavorably – and 43% view her very unfavorably.
With all of that, though, here is the key to the next election:
The new typology finds a deep and continuing divide between the two parties, as well as differences within both partisan coalitions. But the nature of the partisan divide has changed substantially over time.
More than in the recent past, attitudes about government separate Democrats from Republicans, and it is these beliefs that are most correlated with political preferences looking ahead to 2012. [emphasis mine]
Those are the attitudes that the politicos are going to have to develop, sell and exploit in 2012. However wins will have done the best job of either selling big government or smaller government and all that goes with each. Or you’re going to see an attempt to co-opt “small government” by the left by attempting to do things like drastically reducing military spending and raising taxes on the rich and business while hardly touching entitlements and calling the result “small government” as “demanded” by the electorate.
It is going to be a very interesting political season. As interesting as it will be to see who ends up representing GOP hopes in the presidential election, it will be even more interesting – at least to me – to see how Obama plans to run on his record this time. Because he finally has too.
Yup, we’re right in the middle of the old Chinese saying “may you live in interesting times”. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure the saying necessarily meant those interesting times were good times.
There’s a very interesting survey out from the Pew Research Center that looks at the media – both old and new – in just about every way possible. Per Pew, 44% of people now receive some bit of news on line or on their mobile device each day. The revolution in news gathering preferences is being driven by thirty-somethings who came of age during the rise of the internet. Older folks continue to prefer traditional means of gathering news and opinion.
But I found one of their charts on the preferences of regular audiences to be fascinating. Included in the chart was a category for “political blogs”. And, per the chart, they are preferred over such media majors as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today for opinion.
That says to me the genre has established itself as I think it should be viewed – blogs are commentaries on the political scene as the blogger views it and that includes his or her ideology and political biases. Bloggers aren’t shy about making known what their ideology and biases are and I think that is actually attractive to readers because they can filter the content as they feel necessary. That’s reinforced by the higher numbers found among those of the talk radio and opinion TV genres. Whereas other more traditional outlets have a tendency to at least pretend some level of objectivity – even in their commentary. I’d suggest, given the numbers, that bit of spin isn’t selling well and that for the most part they’ve been relegated to the hard news portion of the information gathering process. If someone wants to know what happened, they go to more traditional media outlets. If they want to know what to think about it (or to reinforce what they think), they seek out opinions. Blogs, it seems, have very successfully established themselves in the opinion area of that process.
There’s a lot more to digest in the survey, much of it which makes clear the trend toward on-line news gathering isn’t a trend or fad. Traditional media outlets who peruse the results should be able to quickly figure out the Darwinian choice they’re presented – adapt or die. But for political blogs, at least at this point in the media evolution, seem to have found their niche.
A party can have the greatest candidate in the world, or at least think so, but if voters who favor that candidate and party don’t get out and vote, even a Jimmy Carter can win. This time around, if the polls are indicative of the voter’s true feelings, the enthusiasm gap is on the side of the GOP. In fact, pollsters haven’t seen such a difference since 1994. The Pew Research Center conducted a recent survey and found:
Fully 56% of Republican voters say they are more enthusiastic about voting this year than in previous elections – the highest percentage of GOP voters expressing increased enthusiasm about voting in midterms dating back to 1994. While enthusiasm among Democratic voters overall is on par with levels in 2006, fewer liberal Democrats say they are more enthusiastic about voting than did so four years ago (52% then, 37% today).
The other key, of course, is the final sentence. And, if you read the liberal blogs, that’s patently obvious. None of the rah-rah activism we saw when Republicans were in control or in office. And certainly none of the enthusiasm they displayed then.
Probably the most damaging to the Democratic side, is their failure to hold on to the elderly vote, with which they usually do very well. The elderly vote and it looks like they’re going to vote Republican this time around (again, assuming the poll numbers hold). At this point, the vast 2006 lead (52% to 38%) the Democrats held among the elderly voters (50 and over) has completely disappeared:
Voters younger than 30 favor the Democratic candidate in their district by a wide margin (57% to 32%). Yet only half of young voters say they are absolutely certain to vote. Voters ages 50 and older favor the Republican candidate in their district by double digits (11 points) and roughly eight-in-ten (79%) say they are absolutely certain to vote.
These polls, of course, provide national snapshots of feelings at the time they’re taken. Their worth is as indicators and as they’re repeated over time, their ability to spot trends. The trend now is toward the GOP candidate generically. Some local races may tend toward a Democratic candidate, but overall, it appears to be shaping up as a GOP mid-term.
Here’s a somewhat entertaining survey by Pew. In it they asked various people to give a positive or negative reaction to a group words they were given. The words were socialism, capitalism, libertarianism, progressive, civil liberties, civil rights, family values, militia and state’s rights. Interestingly, conservative was left off the list.
As it turns out, libertarians scored a split verdict, with a 38% positive and 37% negative.
Now again, realize that people are being asked to react to the words based on how they understand them. There’s apparently no context given – for instance “progressive” doesn’t necessarily have to mean “liberal” if the person so chooses to consider it by an alternate meaning.
On the other hand, capitalism, socialism and libertarianism pretty well have a single meaning or context. What they actually mean to each person remains a mystery, obviously, but the most negative of the 3 was socialism, followed by libertarianism and then capitalism. That says to me that many people still think of libertarianism to be the realm of the blue skinned guy who refuses to carry a driver’s license and is worried about the gold fringed flag. But it also says that the image may be changing and becoming both more acceptable and more mainstream. Good.
And independents are most positive about libertarians (stands to reason since libertarians don’t consider themselves Republicans or Democrats) while Republicans are least positive. In many ways we’re actually competition for Republicans and try to hold them to their principles and slam them when they don’t live up to them. But Republicans don’t like us on the social side of things. And that’s where some Dems love us.
Interestingly the terms which provoked the most warm fuzzies – positives – were civil rights, state’s rights, civil liberties and family values. I see that as a hopeful sign, and another in a long line of signals that say stand down the size of the federal government, respect the state’s rights and those of individuals as well.
The most negative word of the group? Militia. I’m not sure whether that’s a function of how the media constantly portrays them, but my guess is it is heavily influenced by that characterization. But militias are a very minor and insignificant problem in this country today. I have to wonder how conservative would have fared.
I’m not sure what to really make of all this other than taking it at face value – people react to these terms for a particlar reason in the manner they do. On the whole, libertarianism seems to be making a better impression now than it has in the past. That’s a hopeful and welcome sign to me.
Rasmussen has a poll out that addresses the public’s feeling about government and job creation. To put it succinctly, they mostly think that government can best serve the public in that regard by cutting taxes.
Sixty-five percent (65%) say decisions made by U.S. business leaders to help their own businesses grow will do more to create jobs than decisions made by government officials. Twenty-five percent (25%) say decisions made by government officials to create jobs will do more.
So their faith in a government solution v. a private sector solution is obvious. As another survey points out, the public is “dubious” of the administration claimed success in aiding any economic recovery:
Just 33% say the economic stimulus passed by Congress last year has helped the job situation and only somewhat more (42%) say the loans the federal government provided to troubled financial institutions prevented a more severe financial crisis. Less than a third (31%) says that the government has made progress in fixing the problems that caused the 2008 financial crisis.
That means Democrats are unlikely to reap the political reward from an economic turnaround that they would like.
It goes without saying, dissatisfaction with the economy and government (and government’s efforts in behalf of the economy) mean political trouble for the party in power. It means even more trouble for that party when the people make clear their priorities for the party in power (jobs, the economy and the deficit) and that party ignores them (HCR, financial reform, cap-and-trade, etc).
Another interesting tidbit from the Rasmussen poll which shows how disconnected the “Political Class” is from “Mainstream Voters”:
Similar distinctions are evident in the views of Mainstream voters versus those of the Political Class. Eighty-one percent (81%) of Mainstream voters, for example, think decisions made by U.S. business leaders to help their own businesses grow will do more to create new jobs than job-creation decisions made by government officials. The plurality (47%) of Political Class voters have more confidence in the decisions made by government officials.
So how did a victorious Democratic party and a president swept into power on the “Hope and Change” platform become so tone deaf to what the public really wants?
Most, I’m sure, remember candidate Obama saying that one of the things he really wanted to do was make government “cool again”. And, one can imagine, he thought that was part of his and the Democrats mandate when he was elected. Of course, the underlying premise of a desire to make government “cool again” is the belief that government is the answer to most problems. Or more government is good government and good government is “cool”. They’ve accomplished the “more government part”, but it certainly certainly hasn’t translated into a perception of good government, has it?
Interestingly, David Brooks recently addressed that in an article saying:
In the first year of the Obama administration, the Democrats, either wittingly or unwittingly, decided to put the big government-versus-small government debate at the center of American life.
But Arnold Kling differs with that and I think what he says is more on the mark. His premise helps explain a lot, such as the Democratic tone deafness and their reaction to the emergence of the Tea Parties, etc. Talking about Brook’s statement above he says:
I would put this somewhat differently. The left decided that the debate was settled. They took the view that the financial crisis proved once and for all that markets do not work, and that wherever markets produce imperfect outcomes, government is the answer.
They, as many political parties have in the past, misinterpreted the outcome as a mandate to do what they perceived to be the desire of the people – expand the size, scope and cost of government – and set out on their merry way to do exactly that.
As it turns out, they were dead wrong. In fact, the term “dead wrong” doesn’t even begin to describe how wrong they were. Not only did the financial crises not support their interpretation, but – as with the “science” of AGW – nothing about the debate concerning the size, scope and cost of government was settled by their election. That’s not at all what the election was about – yet their own hubris wouldn’t allow them to see that. They decided to interpret it the way they found served their ideological best interest.
And they’ve blown it.
Recognizing that has to give one some hope. Americans are mostly rejecting big government and government solutions. Government is not “cool” again. And while the Democrats haven’t yet realized that, the GOP seems to be waking up to it – somewhat. They’re not there yet, and a certain number of them are as clueless as the Democrats, but I think the public is gearing up to smack many of those who are popularly known as “RINOs” around a bit in November as well (especially if they favor more government).
I think it is interesting though to consider this explanation as to why Democrats don’t seem to be able to get out of their own way and why they seem unable to change course and address that which the electorate really wants. All of that goes directly against the interpretation they gave the election of 2008 and they can’t yet admit to themselves, much less anyone else, that they were wrong.
UPDATE: If you don’t believe me, consider the commencement speech President Obama just delivered at the University of Michigan today:
President Obama on Saturday urged graduates at the University of Michigan to participate in public life as the president forcefully defended an activist role for government in dealing with society’s problems.
Don’t expect he or the Democrats to figure it out anytime soon.
One of the things I’ve been saying for months is the Tea Party is not just a reaction to Obama and his agenda (although both he and his agenda have just continued to add to a decline in public trust and satisfaction in government). The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press published a chart that makes that point well:
The present slide, in both trust in government and satisfaction with the nation began in about 2003 – one would guess about the time of the invasion of Iraq. Note that at that time trust in government was at an all time high. But the erosion of that trust and satisfaction in the nation, began a pretty steep slide at that point. Note too that satisfaction with the nation (i.e. the nation headed in the right direction) took a brief turn upward with the election of Barack Obama but then swiftly turned south again. Presently both indicators at near all time lows.
Note as well that the last time the indicators were in the same area was 1994 when Democrats were power and after a precipitous decline from the Bush I administration that continued through the first two years of the Clinton administration. Also consider that when the trust numbers again began to rise after ’94, the GOP was attempting to pass the Contract with America (aimed at some of the present Tea Party goals) and were ending “welfare as we know it”.
Some would argue that the political stars are aligning precisely as they did in ’94 which saw a resounding GOP victory. The situation, via the graph, certainly seems similar. But is it really? A couple of key paragraphs may disabuse one of that notion:
The public’s hostility toward government seems likely to be an important election issue favoring the Republicans this fall. However, the Democrats can take some solace in the fact that neither party can be confident that they have the advantage among such a disillusioned electorate. Favorable ratings for both major parties, as well as for Congress, have reached record lows while opposition to congressional incumbents, already approaching an all-time high, continues to climb.
The Tea Party movement, which has a small but fervent anti-government constituency, could be a wild card in this election. On one hand, its sympathizers are highly energized and inclined to vote Republican this fall. On the other, many Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say the Tea Party represents their point of view better than does the GOP.
This indicates the dissatisfaction isn’t necessarily partisan. That is the dissatisfaction with the state of the nation and the decline in public trust haven’t been driven exclusively by Obama and his agenda. As you can see, both indicators were in rapid decline well before Obama was a glint on the political horizon. What has happened is a over the past 10 or so years, the political culture within the country has begun to shift. More and more awareness of the impact, intrusion and cost of government has reached a broader audience. Our technology and connectedness has indeed had a political impact. And the numbers you see on the chart are partially a result of that.
So while Obama is the man in the hot seat at the moment, he isn’t the only reason for this general feeling of distrust and dissatisfaction. This has been brewing for some time – years in fact. It just reached a critical point – a “turn out in the streets” point – when TARP, bailouts, takeovers and trillion dollar deficits came so fast and furious that it could no longer be ignored or glossed over. Government is out of control, the Tea Party is simply a manifestation of the general dissatisfaction with government. Neither party is immune from the voters ire this November because they recognize both got the nation in this position. The only advantage the GOP holds is they are marginally recognized as the fiscally conservative/small government party (why, after the Bush years, is anyone ‘s guess). That’s why they hold a lead in most Congressional polling. But I wouldn’t call it a solid lead at this point. The Pew study makes it clear that many out there see the TP as what the GOP isn’t – truly committed to fiscal conservacy and small government. In other words, a significant portion of potential GOP voters don’t trust the GOP anymore than they do the Democrats although the GOP should be the party of choice for them (if one is to believe the principles they espouse).
The point – if the GOP wants to take and hold the reigns of power at a national level, they had better not only talk the talk (something they’re very good at) but also, once given the opportunity, walk the walk (something they are very poor at doing and the reason -although they don’t seem to understand it – they continue to get bounced out of power).
Rather than an activist government to deal with the nation’s top problems, the public now wants government reformed and growing numbers want its power curtailed. With the exception of greater regulation of major financial institutions, there is less of an appetite for government solutions to the nation’s problems – including more government control over the economy – than there was when Barack Obama first took office.
Figure it out boys and girls – here’s the ticket. Accept it, internalize it, run on it and then do it. If they don’t then the cycle you see above in the chart will only repeat.