Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Independents and Moderates

One of the media mistakes that drives me the most nuts is when 'moderates' are conflated with 'independents.' This is most commonly a foible of TV news.

Democrats are in trouble with independents right now. They are not, however, in trouble with moderates.

Independents as a group of voters are somewhat conservative leaning. Our last national poll found that 56% of independents were moderates but that among the rest 33% were conservatives to just 11% liberals. Overall independents were planning to vote Republican for Congress this year by a 40-27 margin. But break that out a little further and while conservative independents are tending toward the GOP by a 68-7 margin moderate independents are tied up at 33. And among all moderates- since moderates continue to identify more as Democrats than Republicans- Democrats lead 46-31 on the generic ballot.

It's a similar story when it comes to moderates and independents and Barack Obama's approval rating. Independents are split 48/48 on Obama. But moderates approve of him by a 62/34 margin.

Independents and moderates are not the same thing- get it right media!


Anonymous said...

A Moderate is nothing more than a liberal in disguise. The word "liberal" has become derogatory, thus whenever you see the word Moderate used in a poll, add it to the liberal polling section as well.

Stephanie said...

The bad rep of the institutional GOP right now and since about 2006 should mean that former self-identified GOP'ers still vote GOP but call themselves independents-- which should mean that independents as a group since 2005-06 have been getting more and more conservative, even though no individual within that group became a self-identified conservative over that time. Tom, can you confirm?

Christian Liberty said...

"Independents as a group of voters are somewhat conservative leaning."

Once again, this strongly supports the idea that if independents are the real swing voters, then the best thing Republicans can do electorally is to be more conservative. And the best thing Democrats can do electorally is to be more conservative. The best thing both parties can do to improve their electoral chances is to cleave more tightly to the Tea Party.

Conservatism wins elections. Tea Party principles will win in 2010. Any candidate in a district to the right of D+10 needs to vote as a conservative and run as a conservative. Because the conservative in the race will always be the heavy favorite.

Tom Jensen said...

Steve- I agree with that.

Unknown said...

When surveyed people on the right overwhelmingly think they're conservative. Northeasters who are fiscally conservative but socially moderate or libertarian have been conservative for generations. They don't abandon that because others tell them they aren't conservative.Conservatives don't all like the GOP. So Republican numbers in surveys are low.

Anonymous is correct. While people on the right revel in being considered conservative or far right people on the left bristle at the idea of being on the left. Most Democrats think they're moderate. On Politico's arena the editor of The Dailykos responded to criticism that they were far left by saying they were moderate. Since Democrats tend to think they're moderate surveys show conservatives outnumbering liberals by a wide margin.

Thus, when you do a survey of "moderates" you'll tend to get more Democrats.

Matt said...

One thing I see as troublesome for this analysis is that it doesn't necessarily lead to policy recommendations. The reason is that it isn't at all clear to me that one's self-identification correlates all that well with one's actual views. There are quite a few people who self-identify as "conservative", but who hold left-wing views on a number of issues. Health care in particular is one of these. In the vague and abstract, universal health care, for example, picks up substantial "conservative" support.

Similarly, many of the folks who self-identify as liberal may very well hold conservative views on a number of issues.

Ben (The Tiger in Exile) said...

Republicans need to win a majority of independents, but only a minority of moderates.

Democrats need to win a majority of moderates, but only a minority of independents.

Easy as pie.

Ben (The Tiger in Exile) said...

Or, to put it another way, with "conservatives" outnumbering "liberals" in the general electorate 2-1, being even among "moderates" means that it's time for Democrats to... what's the phrase? Oh yes, "run for the hills". :p

No worries, though -- the pendulum swings both ways.

Anonymous said...

I agree that, at this point, independents are more conservative leaning. But, in general, independents go with the wind -- and the trend. That is why they broke break with the democrats in 2008 and 2006. That is why they are planting their seeds with the republicans in 2010. 2012 is too far away and is very much up for grabs.

Jed Carosaari said...

Please. Since when has "liberal" become derogatory? Only in the minds of conservatives, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

-Proud Liberal

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