Monday, April 11, 2016

Does This Poll Matter?

There was a poll the other day which got me wondering. The headline of the poll was that the GOP has crashed in terms of popularity. I don’t remember the exact number, but it was something like 2/3 of Americans have a negative view of the GOP. Should this worry us?

At the outset, let me say that 2/3 of Americans having a negative view of the GOP is no surprise. For one thing, the culture is vehemently anti-GOP. GOP characters are objects of derision. Pretty much all the big name singers and actors are far-left liberals; those who aren’t find themselves under vicious attack. News shows have a leftward bias. Most books are written by leftists. Even worse, when you do get a right winger in the bunch, they typically don’t let their politics intrude upon their work. All of this tends to keep GOP support around 48% even though around 60% of the public actually holds views that are identical to those the GOP generally espouses.

But the difference between the 33% in the poll and the normal 48% is 15%. What is accounting for that lost 15%? Who are they and should the GOP worry?

Logic tells me that these 15% haven’t changed their political views. I say this because a genuine shift of views would give the Democrats an overwhelming majority. Right now, 43% of the public are hard-core liberals/progressives. If 20% of GOP supporters really decided they hate the GOP and will now vote for the alternative, i.e. the Democrats, then the Democrats would have a 63% super majority. If that were true, the signs would be everywhere. GOP candidates would be retiring, switching parties or desperately trying to put out a new message. The polls would reflect a massive shift like that too. Indeed, even a minor shift would appear seismic given the 50/50 nature of our electorate. Besides, right now, political views are becoming increasingly hardened rather than shifting.

So who are they, then? If there isn’t an ideological shift, then logic tells us these must be people who cheer on the GOP in normal circumstances, but are angry about the current turmoil. The likely suspects are:

● Group One: Talk radio conservatives who have been trying to destroy the GOP since 2008 for imagined crimes to avoid facing the reality that their own views are unpalatable to the vast majority of Americans. But these people never really supported the GOP. Indeed, they proudly proclaim how they never once voted GOP in the past. Instead, they voted for the Constitution Party, the Libertarians, the Paranoid Party, etc. So they aren’t part of this number because they never were GOP supporters.

● Group Two: Ideological liberals who only support the GOP when it elects RINOs. This group is a myth. These people left the GOP in the 1980s and 1990s. The only reason people think they still exist is because talk radio needs a straw man to attack, so they invent secret RINOs. The truth is the current GOP leadership and the elected representatives (almost to a man -- Lindsey Graham is about all that is left of them) are all far to the right of Reagan, and the rank and file members who are liberal long again joined the Democrats under Clinton, to get away from W. Bush, or to support moderate-seeming Obama in 2008. These people don’t exist.

● Group Three: Ideological conservatives who wonder how the hell the GOP is looking to nominate either (1) a con artist douche bag who spouts white socialism, (2) a Nixonian-paranoid religious nut who shares Trump’s political views but isn’t vulgar when he says them, and (3) a bologna sandwich. This group is real and they love National Review. The thing is, I doubt these people would badmouth the GOP in a poll because they know that tearing down the one organ they have to fix the current mess only neuters their only hope.

● Group Four: Evangelicals who hate the party’s recent libertarian swing away from issues like gays and abortion. But these people only make up around 6% of the public, so they can’t account for the 15% loss of support. Also, I’m not sure they would attack the GOP because they still control it and it does their bidding. That said, their rank and file are pretty irrationally angry and their leaders love to play the martyred outsider role, so maybe they do account for some of it. Half of them would be 3% of the 15%.

● Group Five: Non-“talk radio conservative” Trump supporters, i.e. Trump moderates and Trump actual conservatives, who feel that the dirty tricks being played with delegates is rotten insiders trying to steal the nomination from the public. This group is not talk radio conservatives. This group is loyal Republicans who have for whatever reason decided to back Trump and are angry at the “over my dead body!” approach of the GOP.

This group is real, but unfortunately, the numbers don’t add up here. Trump’s support has risen to just about 50% of the GOP from the original 38%. That 38% was white socialists, cranks, and gen-ooine “conservatives.” Moving up to 50% tells me that 12% of his support is now coming from moderate/rational Republicans. So that’s the other part of the 15%, right? Nope. That 12% works out to less than 5% of the public. So even if ALL of them report themselves as angry at the GOP, which is highly unlikely, they and the Evangelicals together account for only an 8% shift max – 7% short of what we need.

So what is going on?

Honestly, this could be many things. It could just be a little from every group out there. It also could be statistical error, though I doubt it. What I think this really is, ultimately, is political gamesmanship.

Trump’s people think they are getting screwed. Cruz’s voters hate the fact their guy can’t get out of the 30% range except in theological country. Kasich’s people don’t understand why the rest of the GOP has gone crazy. Each of these groups fears they are losing. So it becomes natural for them to try to shake up the rest of the GOP to make them shift to their guy. The only way to do that is to answer on polls (1) that they are unhappy with the GOP, and (2) to swear they will never vote for the other candidates. But that’s just a tactic; they aren’t actually planning to abandon the GOP.

In fact, this is how someone like Hillary can have an 11% approval rating at the beginning of a primary and yet go on to get 80%+ Democratic support when the election comes. It’s not that 89% actually oppose her, it’s that 89% would rather have someone else so they claim to dislike her to help their own guy. Once their own guy is gone, they jump over to her and stop knocking her down in the polls. I see the same thing here.

So should we be worried?

In a normal election, I would say no: this is just part of the process. But this isn’t a normal election. Evangelicals are essentially fighting to defend their power, and if they lose to Trump they are finished. So they might be inclined to lose if Trump is the nominee... just as they were with cultist Romney. They won’t vote for Hillary, but they will definitely sit out for Trump and will be lukewarm for Kasich. What about moderates? They won’t support Cruz. He’s such a turn off to moderates that most of Kasich’s supporters would choose Donald Fricken Trump over Cruz. Will they turn out for Trump? I think so if he calms down, which he seems to be trying. Talk radio conservatives may turn out for Trump or Cruz, but not Kasich. But again, they are tiny in number and they have never supported the GOP, so their loss doesn’t matter. What about Trump’s rational supporters? I suspect they are inclined to vote for whoever wins the nomination unless they feel cheated. In that event, they may well sit out in protest. And what about actual conservatives? They would vote for Kasich for sure, but it’s doubtful they would vote for either Cruz or Trump; they seem to like principled losing.

So are we doomed? No. I think Kasich can best unify the GOP, which should be enough to beat a wounded, pathetic Hillary; provided that Kasich wins in a manner that doesn’t anger the Trumpster moderates and he wins over enough Trump crazies or moderates to replace a weak Evangelical turn out. I think Trump can win too if he succeeds in reining himself in, as he’s apparently trying. The key to Trump’s win will be the Trump crazies replacing the missing Evangelicals. Both Trump and Kasich also have the advantage that gays won’t turn out against either of them. That will balance the Evangelicals to a good degree. Moreover, when thinking of Evangelicals, keep in mind that they are generally only important in states that will be red states no matter what. The two exceptions are Colorado, which the GOP does not need to win the election, and Ohio. This is where Kasich’s proven record might sway the day. Hillary also can’t use Kasich to agitate her supporters as she could with Trump or Cruz. But Trump has a genuinely good shot of winning New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, which would mean blow outs.

As for Cruz, well, I think Cruz gets crushed any way you look at it.



AndrewPrice said...

As an aside, I thought I would throw this out to give everyone some perspective. There was a time when Kasich was considered a solid, solid, solid Reagan conservative (Welfare Reform, Balanced Budget Act, etc.). The thing is, the party has shifted so far to the fringe right that Kasich is now seen as a moderate/liberal.

Look at Paul Ryan and Rubio too. Both were considered solid conservative darlings as little as 4 years ago. Now they are seen as moderate (blech!) sell outs. Ditto on Mitt Romney.

I don't raise this to praise Kasich. I raise this to point out that our perspective as conservatives on what we are looking for has become rather skewed.

tryanmax said...

John Kasich bears an uncanny resemblance to the late Garry Schandling and the parallels don't stop there. While you would be hard-pressed to find anybody who outright hates either figure, neither is anyone's favorite comedian/politician. Also, no quotable quotes from either man.

ScottDS said...

John Kasich bears an uncanny resemblance to the late Garry Schandling and the parallels don't stop there.

Does David Duchovny have a man-crush on John Kasich, too? :-)

Andrew, I'm sure you've heard this before but many on the right would take your last statement and say it's a testament to how far the country has moved to the LEFT that the right now appears more extreme.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I'm sure some would, but they would be wrong. I've said this before, but Ronald Reagan would be attacked as a RINO by today's "right." Not to mention, today's right now disdains most actual conservative views, and instead replaced them with pure populism.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, It definitely does not help Kasich that he looks like Droppy the Dog. Of course, Cruz looks like Satan, but that hasn't hurt him with the same people.

Anthony said...

In the modern Republican party the deadliest sin you can commit is holding power and not instantly remaking the world into a conservative nirvana. Such failure means you lack the devotion of all of the 'true conservatives' who invariably make a living talking.

On a related note, the biggest asset you can have this election cycle is a willingness to engage in tough talk, the tougher the better (doesn't matter if what you are saying is realistic, it has to be tough sounding).

Kasich is a governor who is unwilling to talk sufficiently crazy, so he has no shot.

I'd be lying if I said Cruz was the guy I was pulling for throughout, but he is the only guy left who could win the primary and win the general IMHO.

LL said...

Kasich is hoping against all odds, that when a convention arrives, everyone will turn to him and set him on the dias. Sadly, for John, it comes down to crapping in one hand and wishing in the other and then weighing them. Cruz's unfortunate resemblance to grandpa Munster notwithstanding, nobody likes him. Trump is Trump. Sanders is a senile old communist and the grand jury investigation of Hillary is likely to result in indictment.

Handicapping that is like pounding sand with a hammer and hoping to make a sand castle out of it.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, To be clear, I am not predicting that anyone will turn to Kasich. I think Trump wins the primaries pretty easily (Cruz is out of good states for him and Trump's states are coming up), or Cruz wins if the establishment can rig the delegate count. I'm not sure which way things will go yet, but no scenario seems to end with a Kasich victory.

In terms of Cruz winning the general election, I have to disagree. I see him as having possibly the worst GOP showing since Goldwater. He's just not electable anywhere outside of the deepest, reddest states.

AndrewPrice said...

LL, It is quite a collection of losers, isn't it? Wow, our politics has turned to crap.

In terms of handicapping it, I think we can look at a lot of the factors, but I don't think we can say anything with precision yet. Given a normal GOP field, the Democrats would get crushed, but this field has been picked by the blind leading the stupid, and that has given Hillary her only chance.

BevfromNYC said...

So on a related topic, Andrew. What's the deal with the Colorado non-primary? Yuuuge headline on Drudge that Colorado Republicans are angry that they didn't have a open primary, but just precinct caucuses.

Critch said...

I'm a Republican, but I'm libertarian on some issues, quite right wing on others. To me the Party as a whole has shifted to the right, I'm certainly not an evangelical, however, I don't know where the GOP landed. My view of Mitt Romney is that even though he is a successful businessman, and very religious, I still view him as to the left of me. I think that if he had been elected he would have caved on many issues such as the 2nd Amendment. I just don't trust a lot those people running the GOP. Lindsey Graham et al seem too slick at times. Cruz just bugs me, Trump bugs me...I like Kasich, but there are times I wish he would grow a set. I thought Bush would do better, but he didn't have any fire. I hope Hillary is indicted, I really do. She is dangerous. Bernie would be easier to contain than her.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Colorado has no primary. I think we used to, but we don't anymore. Instead, we have caucuses. But this year, the GOP decided to cancel the presidential preference poll at the caucuses so that the delegates would not be bound by whoever won, just in case those candidates are no longer in the race by the time of the convention. (Ask yourself if that makes sense.)

The result of this is that the delegates got chosen not at the caucuses, but at the party convention this last weekend. So it went from "anyone who shows up gets to vote" to the insiders got to vote. Because of this, while Trump did well in the caucus turn out, Cruz won ALL 34 delegates when the insiders voted.

I don't support Trump, but that's sh*tty any way you cut it.

AndrewPrice said...

Critch, I've never been more disgusted by the choice of candidates than I have this year. Not one of these people should have made it past the "are you f*iing kidding?" stage to get this far.

In terms of right left, Romney is definitely to my left. But the current crop of talk radio conservatives is far to my left. They oppose so much of basic conservatism that I'm shocked they even pretend to be conservatives. They are left-wing populists.

Koshcat said...

I disagree on one aspect. The more I read about Cruz, the more impressed I am about how he is playing the game. He is doing all the hard ground work of setting up teams in every state and making sure that convention delegates, even if they are bound to vote for Trump the first ballot, are not overt Trump fans. Trump and his lovers are all outraged that he is being cheated but this shows a complete misunderstanding of how it works. Just like your prediction regarding Bush collecting all the support prior to this starting gave him the advantage.

I don't think Trump will show up to the convention with enough delegates to be nominated in the first vote and after that it will get wild. I suspect there will be a major deal where a more "moderate" will be selected as a running mate which may push Cruz over the top. Unless Trump can get enough delegates for the first vote, I see no way for him to get the nomination.

Koshcat said...

The rumor I heard out of Washington is the dems are pushing for Hillary to defeat Sanders. They don't won't Sanders because it is a sure loss. Once that happens, Hillary will be indicted, she will step down, and a savior will step in. The names include Biden or Kerry. Convoluted but plausible.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, I agree that Cruz is doing a tremendous amount of work securing delegates and Trump is proving to be an amateur at this point. I also think you are right that if this gets to a second ballot vote, then Trump has no chance... but I don't know. I've read that most of Kasich's people prefer Trump to Cruz, but I honestly have no idea how it would play out. My gut tells me that it would then be Cruz/Kasich.

I've heard the Kerry/Biden theory as well. It's interesting, but I have no way to know that one either. It would be absolute chaos if Hillary became the nominee and then get indicted, that's for sure. But then, if you think about it, the public is remarkably good at putting past events behind them when new ones arise.

Critch said...

If Hillary is indicted then Obama will call in Biden....Uncle Joe will do what Obama tells him to.

Anthony said...

Amusing write-up of what happened in Colorado.

The funniest part of this is when he says the rules in Colorado were changed to help “a guy like Cruz.” In reality the rules were changed to block guys like Cruz. Colorado used to award its delegates via a caucus, but that backfired in 2012 when Rick Santorum upset Mitt Romney there. That’s how it tends to go with caucuses — unlike a statewide primary, they benefit well-organized candidates with a passionate grassroots following, both of which are hallmarks of Cruz’s campaign. When the rules were altered last August, decoupling the caucus from the process of awarding delegates, it was done with the intent of preventing another victory by an outsider — not just Trump but Cruz, Rand Paul, Ben Carson, and so on. The hope, I’m sure, was that an establishment champion would emerge this year and would, by dint of his greater campaign resources and “insider” support,” be able to out-organize all of the insurgent candidates in electing delegates directly. Trump’s not wrong, in other words, to believe that the system was “rigged,” but it was rigged to try to hurt Cruz as much as to hurt him. So what happened? Cruz adapted and Trump didn’t. As the establishment candidates crumbled, Cruz got organized to target delegates at the state and district level while Trump glided on with his media-saturation campaign strategy. If Trump had been paying attention, he’d have brought Paul Manafort into the campaign the day after Colorado changed its rules, knowing that delegate-wrangling could end up playing a key role in claiming the nomination. He didn’t.

Which, says Ben Domenech, raises the question: If Trump can’t anticipate his opponents’ moves in a straightforward game like this, where the rules are written down and publicly available, how’s he going to do with foreign policy?

Anthony said...

I have no insider info but if Hillary gets indicted I'd put my money on Elizabeth Warren replacing her.

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