Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The perils of the big tent

Republicans who think that their party's too liberal- the folks who pushed out Dede Scozzafava in New York- are getting a lot of attention these days and they are indeed the largest group of voters within the electorate right now who are unhappy with their party ideologically.

30% of Republicans, making up 10% of the overall electorate, think their party's too liberal. The next largest group is Democrats who think their party is too liberal, accounting for 20% within their own party and 8% of voters overall. 16% of Democrats think their party's too conservative, accounting for 7% of all voters and 10% of Republicans think that their party's too conservative, 3% of voters overall.

Those Republicans who think their party's too liberal might be the biggest of these groups, but they're not the most significant one, at least when it comes to next November. 83% of them say they'll vote for the GOP next fall anyway. Likewise 87% of Democrats who think the party's too liberal still support the party on the generic ballot. Realistically where do the groups on the far end of either party's ideological spectrum have to go?

It's the voters in the middle of their parties who are more likely to cross over next fall. Only 74% of Republicans who think the GOP is too conservative are still committed to voting for it in 2010. That's not all that meaningful though, since it's such a small voter bloc in the context of the broader electorate. The most significant ideological dissatisfaction, at least when it comes to the ballot box next year, is with Democrats who think the party's too liberal. Only 61% of them say they're planning to vote Democratic next year and at 8% of the overall electorate they're a relatively sizable group.

It puts Democratic leaders in an awkward position because they have to choose between keeping the progressive wing of the party happy and risking that some folks on the more conservative end of the party will vote Republican or keeping the more conservative folks happy and risking that progressives will get irritated and not vote at all. Such is the problem of a big tent- Republicans really don't have to grapple with those sorts of choices to the same extent.

Republican disunity is getting the most attention right now but potential Democratic disunity could play the biggest role at the polls next year.

1 comment:

estuartj said...

This seems indicative of the governing party holding an unsustainable majority and a minority party more thirsty for victory than purity.

I also think the Dem leadership is knowingly "spending" their House & Senate Majorities for legislative victories. Of course that only works if enough of the endangered candidates are willing to "Walk the Plank" for their party...

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