Saturday, August 29, 2009

Americans Are Conservatives, Not Republicans

If there was ever a time to call yourself a liberal, this should be it. The Republicans made a mess of the last eight years and now find themselves leaderless and seemingly without hope. Supposed titans of capitalism declared that capitalism "fell off the rails." The free market is said to have failed and the era of Reagan was declared over. The Democrats hold the White House, most governor’s mansions, the House of Representatives, and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

But something has gone wrong. Even with the penchant of so many people to jump on any bandwagon they can find, the country is shedding liberals like a bear sheds in the woods.

Conservative America

Now, it should come as no surprise to anyone who has read our prior discussion on how conservative Americans really are that many Americans identify themselves as "conservatives." But what is surprising in the following data (from Gallop), is just how large that group has become:

In all 50 states, more people describe themselves as “conservative” than describe themselves as “liberal.” Only the District of Columbia has more liberals than conservatives.

And this difference is not just a matter of a couple points. The conservative advantage ranges from +1 to +34 percentage points, with conservatives holding a statistically significant lead in 47 of the 50 states, leaving only Hawaii, Vermont and Massachusetts as possibly even. Click on the chart to the left to see the numbers broken down by state.

Or take a look at the following map. This map demonstrates just how dramatic the conservative advantage is. In the darkest green states (“most conservative”), the conservative advantage is 25% points or more. In the medium green states (“more conservative”), the conservative advantage ranges from 20% to 25% points. The conservative advantage in the light green states (“somewhat conservative”) ranges from 10% to 19% points. Finally, the conservative advantage in the pale green states (“less conservative”) ranges from 1% to 9% points.

When you look at the number of electoral votes represented by these groupings, the hurdle a liberal faces is staggering. A party needs 270 electoral votes to win the Presidency.

Below are the number of electoral votes held by each grouping of states:
Most Conservative = 108
More Conservative = 116
Somewhat Conservative = 162
Less Conservative = 149
Liberal = 3
Thus, if we exclude moderates for the moment, the conservative candidate will win a landslide election by an electoral count of 535 to 3. If we exclude the states within the statistical margin of error, the conservative candidate still wins by the electoral count of 516 to 3, with 19 votes undecided.

Even if the country suddenly experiences a 10% shift to the left, the conservative candidate still wins by the electoral count of 386 to 152.

Now let’s factor in the moderates:
• If the conservative can attract half the moderates, the conservative will win 50 states, totaling 535 electoral votes.

• If the conservative attracts only 40% of moderates, the conservative candidate will win 39 states, totaling 376 electoral votes. New Hampshire ends in a tie.
It is not until you fall close to the level of 35% support among the moderates that the conservative candidate loses the election. Thus, all the conservative candidate must do to prevail is to pull in the conservative support plus 40% or more of the moderate voters.

Is such a thing likely? Absolutely. As we’ve noted before, unaffiliated voters tend to hold opinions that are much closer to the Republican position than the Democratic position. On most issues, around 60% of these unaffiliated voters state a preference for the conservative position (click to see our chart). That is fertile ground for a conservative candidate.

In any event, combining this polling data with the prior findings that Americans overwhelmingly continue to express conservative opinions on all major issues -- and that the Democrats are the outliers -- finds that liberals are indeed a rare breed in America. And given all of the advantages liberals should have at the moment, this finding is all the more interesting and all the more damning.

The Republican Problem

However, there is a big caveat to this data. If the Republicans are unable to attract these conservatives, then their electoral success in 2010 or 2012 is far from assured.

The reason this becomes an issue is that Republican affiliation trails conservative identification by wide margins. In other words, more people describe themselves as conservative than Republican. Indeed, Republicans only hold a registration advantage over Democrats in six states, as compared to the forty-three states where the Democrats hold the advantage (twenty-nine of which are sizable). Compare that to the advantage conservatives hold in all 50 states. (Click on the chart to the left to see the comparison broken down by state.)

The Democratic advantage is clear in the chart below. The red states are those where Republicans hold the advantage (dark red = 10 point or greater advantage; bright red = 5-9 point advantage), the grey states are about even, and the blue states are those where the Democrats hold the advantage (dark blue = 10 point or greater advantage; bright blue = 5-9 point advantage).

Compare the Republican misery in this chart against the conservative sweep in the green map above. Unlike the conservative who wins by 500+ electoral votes, the Republican loses to the Democrat 24 to 259, with 75 votes remaining undecided.

So what does this mean? It means that liberalism has not caught on with the public. It means that Americans remain a deeply conservative people. It also means that Republicans have done a poor job of attracting self-described conservatives. Maybe they should ask themselves why that is?


AndrewPrice said...

P.S. You can click on the maps to make them clearer, but for some reason blogger makes them fuzzy on the entry page.

LawHawkSF said...

Amen and Hallelujah: The MSM had an ulterior motive for calling the 1994 midterm elections a "Republican revolution," and the sucker Republicans bought into it. It puffed them up, and they thought being a Republican was an adequate substitute for being a conservative. And we just saw the results. Your graphs are excellent, and combined with the recent Gallup Poll I mentioned in an earlier article, the Republicans would be complete morons if they think that any stance that isn't conservative will keep them them from perpetual minority status and endless electoral losses.

Andrew, when you and I first started chatting back in the stone age, I mentioned that I am a conservative by choice and a Republican by default. The Party had better figure out that this is true of the largest portion of the Republican base. If a party called The True Conservative Party showed any signs of the potential to win elections, I would be out of the Republican Party faster than John McCain can say "my friends."

Writer X said...

Andrew, your conclusions are spot-on. I think one of the reasons people have been dissatisfied with the Republican Party is because the party hasn't been conservative enough. Plus, I think some of the senior senators and representatives (like McCain) just can't connect with people in the party. I'm hoping for a major house cleaning in 2010.

StanH said...

Ronald Reagan! Conservatism was his being, absolutely destroyed the Democrats. Put forth a conservative platform and conservatism will win. I however am somewhat cynical and believe that Washington, Republican and Democrats alike are headed in the same direction, the only difference is by degree. We the people have upset the apple cart lately opposing “Immigration Reform (W), Cap-n-Trade, and now Healthcare Reform.” All of these things have one thing in common, they enhance the power of the Federal Government. The election in ‘08 was the classic American, “throw the bums out.” And our only option was Barry and the boys, …sheesh! The Republican party doesn’t seem to be embracing Conservatism, we’ll have to drag them there kicking and screaming. Good read Andrew!

Tennessee Jed said...

The question is clearly worth asking. Part of it is laying out core positions on a host of issues perhaps. Your post prompts me to want to go back and read the Republican Party platform although I imagine it will be far to generalized to say all that much. Historically, politicians have run to the base in primaries and run to the center in elections.

Even Obama put on a mask of moderation during the general election. Most of us with political passion could see right through it.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, The two great things about Reagan were that you knew where he stood (which was common sense conservatism) and he was relentlessly positive. The Republicans today are far too negative and you don't know what they believe. All I know is that sometimes they'll stand up to Obama and sometimes they won't. I can't trust anyone in D.C. to act in a conservative manner.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, I think you're absolutely right. I think that too many "leaders" in Washington don't understand or believe in conservatism. I think they accept that they need to talk the talk, but they don't believe in the policies, and they think we are too stupid to notice.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I agree. If there was a real conservative party with a shot at replacing the Republicans, I think they would be flooded with members and would easily replace the Repubs. But that's not how our system works.

Hopefully, someone is listening who can start to fixing the party. I guess we should speed up the Rebuilding the Republican Party columns?

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Don't read the platform whatever you do!! It's a joke. You will become quite angry.

Go back and re-read my first couple articles on Rebuilding the Republican Party (see the index): Click Here for the first, and Here for the series. Those articles layout what is wrong with the party thinking.

The last platform was basically a 92 page stream of consciousness textbook that spent almost all of its time trying to justified the Bush years. It was poorly written, poorly reasoned, confused, at times incoherent, and utterly defeatist. I seriously wanted to punch the a~~holes that wrote it.

StanH said...

Beltway Republicans or Rockefeller Republicans as Rush likes to say are embarrassed of flyover Conservatives. We can’t understand the finer points of politics -- or better put the nexus between K-Street and Wall Street. We are uncivilized rubes that still piss in the wind and wonder why our leg is damp. This is a false dichotomy that is foisted on the country like it or not, with the help of their sycophants in the MSM. The exciting part, I happily, see real change coming for our Washington snobs. It may take a few election cycles, but this country is angry, and instead of Washington forcing things down our throat, I think we’re gonna stuff some things down their throats, …shape up, or they’re going to loose their jobs, …vote’em out starting in 2010.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, honestly, I think that some of the criticism of "the rubes" is justified in that many people in flyover country don't understand the art of persuasion. Too many people think that you just need to shove your views into other people's faces and they will all come around. But that doesn't work -- it's never worked -- even when your views are 100% right.

They also wrongly equate tayloring your message with abandoning your principles. That's not true either: that's called the art of persuasion, bringing people along slowly, gaining their trust, so that they will give your views a fair hearing. Shouting or being strident just makes people defensive.

The great thing about Reagan, for example, was his ability to explain his philosophy in ways that weren't strident or hostile, but also never called for abandoning or softening his views. That's mastery of the art of politics.

All of that said, the real problem with the party right now lies with the people on K-Street and inside the Beltway. They seem to have no principles at all, and don't understand how or why others do. Actually, that's not true. They do have some principles and those principles are the protection of the people they lobby for. That needs to change.

HamiltonsGhost said...

We tried to warn you moderns about the danger of faction (what you call "parties"). When those seeking to serve the public (what you call "candidates") adhere to a party, they can't be true to principle. Mr. Jefferson wouldn't recognize his Democratic-Republicans, and I can't find my Federalists at all. But if you have to have parties, they should stand for something. And if they both stand for very much the same thing, why do you need two? If you had the Constitutionalist Party and the Radical Party, with people who actually believed in the one thing or the other, I might re-join you for another good revolution.

StanH said...

Ahhh… comity, the art of persuasion, agree to disagree, by all means these are preferred methods of discourse between men/women of good will. However when one side of the negotiation leers down their brow with false superiority, and this one side happens to work for you, well that’s a horse of different color, if I may use a folksy colloquialism.

Hypothetically, if you had a business with a hundred employees and thirty of your employees “The Boiler Room Elves,” decide to go on strike causing the other seventy to be out of work, shutting down the shop. You are the boss negotiations are not working, what tact would you take? I would rip a page from Ronald Reagan, and the way he handled PATCO, or the countries air-traffic controllers and, …fire them! And in the case of our hypothetical factory replace the elves with hard working, “Gnomes.”

Using your brilliant exposé this country is conservative, and we have hired representatives to handle our business in Washington and they are not listening, and not only not listening but attempting to do irreversible harm to our children’s, children by adding to the 55trillion in un-funded mandates. They must be held to account or fired in no uncertain terms. I totally agree that the gentlemen’s prose is always the preferred method of negotiation, but!

MegaTroll said...

This type of information makes me so happy. But it also angers me when guys like Colin Powell or what's his name with the Times come out and tell us that we need to "move to the center" to gain public support. Arrrrg.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, Let's draw a distinction.

When you're talking about the politicians and the K-street crew, I say throw them all out. I agree that there is no reason to be kind to a group of people that treat us poorly. And I do not in any way advocate giving the K-Street types another chance. They've shown their stripes, and those stripes are disloyal, unprincipled, and corrupt. So I agree, throw them all out.

BUT, when it comes to the voters, you can't fire anyone. Everyone gets to vote. Thus, you need to win that 70% away from the 30% if you want your views to become policy. And you can't do that by forcing the 70% to accept your views. You need to persuade them.

And persuasion requires either trickery (see Obama) or finding ways to explain to these people why your ideas are the best. You cannot do that by just blasting them with your most controversial views (i.e. the ones they don't share) and telling them "take it or leave".

What you need to do is to explain your principles to them in such a way that they understand your concerns and begin to share them. Simply saying, "this is the way it is" doesn't do that.

Alternatively, you need to find enough other views that these people share with you, so that they will accept the views that they don't share as the price of getting all of the other things you are offering.

Right now, I hear a lot of people (particularly single issue people) who say, "this is the thing we need to focus our party around, and if other people don't like it, f** them." And I ask these people: if I don't share your view, why would I join with you if that's what you're offering -- you're offering me nothing else to hang my loyalty on, and you're not even giving me a reason to reconsider my views. You're just telling me that I'm wrong, the end.

Thus, while I say throw the bums out, I also caution that we need to remake our party in a broad-based conservative way, and we need to use all of the arts of persuasion to attract as many people as possible to those views. We should not allow our party to be built along the lines of single issues and we should not make "take it or leave it" appeals. As you can see in these polls, the public is ready to listen. Now is not the time to get militant with the 70%, now is the time to teach.

That's my point.

AndrewPrice said...

Mega, You make an excellent point. This data really puts to lie all of the claims of the RINOs and the RINO pundits who say that we should move left.

StanH said...

I see. I think we are talking apples and oranges. You are referring to voters I’m talking about the congress critters. I agree the voter must be cajoled and educated, they are after all the stockholders, or the “boss,” if you will.

AndrewPrice said...

Yeah, I'm talking about voters.

Forget the Congress critters, they need to go -- I'm behind that 100%. Also, the lobbyists need to go with them.

StanH said...

Eureka, consensus! Throw the bums out! LOL!

AndrewPrice said...


I'll tell you, I wish the whole term limits thing could have been applied nationally. I think they need to turn these guys out every so often.

AndrewPrice said...

Hamilton, I have no problems with parties. I just want them to represent the people better.

CrispyRice said...

Great article, like always, Andrew! And jaw-dropping. It's nice to see verification of something I've felt but couldn't really say for certain.

Count me in as one of those people who call themselves "conservative" and am embarrassed to say I'm "Republican." The party doesn't seem to represent anything much different than the Dems. The Dems are on a freeway to socialism, the Republicans are taking the back roads, but we'll get there just the same.

The time is ripe for conservative resurgence. I'd like it to be within the party, but I'm open to a 3rd party, too.

AndrewPrice said...

CrispyRice, LOL! Very well put. Let's hope the Republicans turn their car around asap, or a third party will become an option.

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