Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Poll on Republicans' Conservatism

According to this Salon article analyzing polling data from Republican voters about their party's future, 43% say the party's been too moderate, and 55% think Palin should be the model for the GOP

The writer's trying to make the case that in spite of this, a large number of Republicans realize the party needs to move more to the center.
"For evidence, look no further than that same Rasmussen poll: Overall, 42 percent of respondents believe the Republican Party has been too conservative. 56 percent of self-described moderates gave that answer."
Ahem. Only 56% of self-described Republican moderates believe the party has grown too conservative? Yeah, that's a narrow majority, but it also means (and the poll's data confirm) that fully 45% of Republican moderates find the party too moderate (or just moderate enough). Nearly half the moderates think that!

Never trust reporters trying to make points with polls. Even better, never trust polls. It's all in the wording. This one grinds against the ambiguity of the term "conservative". Conservatism means different things to different people (and the Republican coalition has long hinged on that very ambiguity). For libertarian conservatives, the party's recent contraction of civil liberties was non-conservative. For economic conservatives, its enormous deficits were anything but conservative. And for social conservatives, Bush's relatively pro-immigration stance and lack of movement on issues like school prayer were insufficiently conservative.

The data I'd like to see would question rank-and-file Republicans about neo-conservative values: general hawkishness, American exceptionalism, heightened executive power, and all that. While some Republican voters were lulled into accordance with these precepts thanks to Fox News, Bush's pulpit, etc., I doubt they were ever core to their value system. A couple dozen pointy-headed neo-con intellectuals pulled us all into all that, and I suspect the other 303,824,616 Americans are either staunchly against or else slowly coming around.

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