Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Republicans in the Center

One of the main reasons Democrats had such a good election year in 2008 was that moderate voters supported Barack Obama by a 60-39 margin. That was a substantial shift from 2004 when John Kerry won voters in the middle only 54-45.

Earlier in the 2010 cycle Republican candidates were showing a much stronger appeal to the center than John McCain had. Creigh Deeds beat Bob McDonnell by only 14 points among moderates, John Corzine's margin over Chris Christie was just 10 points, and Scott Brown pulled off an extremely rare feat by defeating Martha Coakley 55-41 with them.

Whatever Republicans were doing to appeal to centrist voters in those states has not been replicated in the rest of this year's major contests. In 12 of the 13 US Senate races we have polled in the last two months the GOP candidate is actually losing moderate voters by a wider margin than John McCain did in 2008.

The only exception to that rule is Illinois Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias, who has had to battle attacks on his ethics, and leads Mark Kirk only 33-27 among moderates. In all the rest of the races we've polled the GOP candidate trailed by at least 21 points with moderates, and the average comes out to 27 points.

3 of the 4 Republican candidates trailing by the most with moderates are Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, and Marbo Rubio who have been the candidates most closely associated with the Tea Party movement. Angle's and Paul's races should have been slam dunks for the GOP but the characteristics that helped the two to win their primaries are hurting their appeal to middle of the road voters in the general election.

Of course you might wonder why is the GOP doing so well nationally if it's losing the center and it's because conservative voters are more energized and likely to make up a much larger portion of the electorate than they did in 2008- or that they will in 2012. That strategy could help the party win this year but whether it's a long term strategy that can keep people voting Republican under less dire economic conditions remains to be seen.

One thing's clear- Republicans didn't learn enough about how to win in Obama states from the highly successful campaigns of Brown, Christie, and McDonnell.

Here's the full data:


GOP Candidate

Deficit With Moderates


James Rutledge



Sharron Angle



Marco Rubio



Rand Paul


North Carolina

Richard Burr



Carly Fiorina



Pat Toomey



Ron Johnson



Rob Portman



Dino Rossi



David Vitter


New Hampshire

Kelly Ayotte



Mark Kirk



Anonymous said...

'Self described' moderates, you mean. The people who like Rand Paul wouldn't consider that political term a badge of honor. The people who consider it a desirable trait might not, by others, be considered 'moderate'.

DBL said...

Republicans identify themselves as conservatives, even if they're toward the middle. Democrats who aren't really far left identify themselves as moderates. Calling yourself a moderate or a conservative doesn't mean your views are. Yet, there's no qualification to calling yourself a moderate, conservative, or liberal.

The true middle means half the people are to the left of it and half to the right. In your North Carolina poll, conservatives lead liberals 48%-17%. Yet Democrats outnumber Republicans 46%-34%. Thus, Republicans can't win "moderates" and losing them isn't a big deal.

This is why Burr can win independents by 19% and lose moderates by 32%.

Christian Liberty said...


It is amusing how misguided your obsession with left-leaning "moderates" has become. INDEPENDENTS are the center.

As much as I try to educate you, you still don't seem to listen.

Toni said...

Interesting for Maryland. That is why Rutledge is a terrible choice. He could never win the general. Commissioner Dr. Wargotz ( also a conservative but polls better with moderates. You should present his score as it is highly probable that he will face Mikulski in November and quite possibly win.

Anonymous said...

According to Gallup, 71% of Republican voters consider themselves as being "conservative", while only 24% describe themselves as being "moderate". Also, 60% of "independents" now consider themselves as being more "conservative" than not. In addition, 45% of all conservative voters said they were "very enthusiastic" about voting this November, while only 22% of moderates felt the same. Clearly, conservatism has swept this country and has become of late the ideological mainstay of the Republican party. And I suspect, it will remain as such for the foreseeable future - and possibly well beyond. It would seem that any attempt by the GOP to forsake their conservative base, by attempting to pander to it's more "moderate" minority would be incredibly stupid, if not totally insane. All things considered, it could be logically argued that those "moderate" Republican voters may very well represent more of a liability to the future of the GOP and it's appeal, than what they do as an asset. I say, let them go if they wish and let the cards fall where they may. In either case, no ideological compromises should ever again be made by the GOP. Absolutely none!

Dustin Ingalls said...

"'Self described' moderates, you mean. The people who like Rand Paul wouldn't consider that political term a badge of honor. The people who consider it a desirable trait might not, by others, be considered 'moderate'."

Of course, but that's true of any self-described label or self-reported action (though less so with automated polls like ours than with live-interviewer polls because of social desirability bias). Most people who call themselves conservative aren't really all that conservative. All we can go by is what people tell us.

"Interesting for Maryland. That is why Rutledge is a terrible choice. He could never win the general. Commissioner Dr. Wargotz ( also a conservative but polls better with moderates. You should present his score as it is highly probable that he will face Mikulski in November and quite possibly win."

Neither Rutledge nor Wargotz did well against Mikulski. They're both interchangeable eventual losers. Mikulski is going to win by a landslide, and no one is really going to be paying attention to that race.

NRH said...

I'd be very interested in getting some better data on actual political stances as compared to self-reported ones. If you did a poll asking, say, fifteen distinct issue-oriented questions with clear liberal and conservative options, then you could say that someone who answered 10+ with liberal or conservative responses had that ideology, and someone who split their views would be moderate. To add a bit more subtlety, you could also have them rank those 15 issues in order of personal importance. Then ask them at the end whether they self-report as liberal, moderate, or conservative.

For example:
1. Do you believe that Social Security money should be invested in the stock market, or stay in Treasury bills? (conservative/liberal)
2. Which stance is closest to your own? (con) Abortion should be banned under all circumstances with no exceptions. (mod) Abortion should be permitted with justifiable cause. (lib) Abortion should be legal.
3. Do you support the Environmental Protection Agency? (yes/lib, no/con)
4. Do you watch Fox News? (yes/con, no/lib)
5. Which statement is closer to your beliefs? (con) Government regulations distort the free market and are harmful. (lib) Government regulations protect the public from dangerous hazards and are beneficial.

... and so on, with 'yes' sometimes meaning liberal and sometimes meaning conservative, using neutral phrasing all throughout, avoiding acronyms, and so on.

Anonymous said...

I noticed you used the moderate Mark Kirk in Illinois. How is the conservative gubernatorial candidate, Bill Brady doing against the liberal?

Anonymous said...

"Republicans didn't learn enough about how to win in Obama states from the highly successful campaigns of Brown, Christie, and McDonnell."

You don't get it. It's not about getting elected. It's about doing the right thing. If you have to choose between getting elected and upholding the constitution, I hope politicians choose the constitution.

Go Rand!

Dustin Ingalls said...

You guys can "uphold the Constitution" all you want as long as you don't win.

Christian Liberty said...

INDEPENDENTS, not "moderates" will swing the election.

NV: the plurality of independents find Sharron Angle's ideology "about right". Independents prefer Angle by 10 points (51-41). Independents find Angle (-14) more favorable than Reid (-22). Independents agree that Angle has "more similar values to you" (45-34)

Independents also prefer Rand Paul (45-35), Pat Toomey (41-21), Ron Johnson (46-39), Dino Rossi (53-41), Kelly Ayotte (46-37) over their Democratic opponents... and Richard Burr (44-25-14) and Mark Kirk (26-20-21) in 3 way races.

(all numbers PPP)

The voters who REALLY swing elections --- INDEPENDENTS -- prefer REPUBLICANS.

Dustin Ingalls said...

Independents are just or almost as much disgruntled Republicans as moderates are liberals-under-a-less-dirty-name.

And if indies swing elections, why are Ron Johnson, Sharron Angle, Dino Rossi, and Mark Kirk down in their races despite most of them being up decisively with indies?

Christian Liberty said...

In April, PPP has Sestak leading Toomey among independents 35-34.

In June, PPP had Toomey leading Sestak among independents 41-21.

The more independents get to know Sestak, the more they reject him.

Christian Liberty said...

No, Dustin. As I've consistently shown, independents are much more in the real center of ideological thought, whereas "moderates" are skewed left.

Republicans and Democrats are in almost equal numbers nationally, making independents the actual center.

Conservatives are twice as numerous as leftists, making moderates a left-leaning demographic.

Independents are much more predictive than "moderates". The attempt to use "moderates" as the center is just a lie told by dishonest left-wing pollsters that refuse to admit how conservative America really is.

Christian Liberty said...


"if indies swing elections, why are Ron Johnson, Sharron Angle, Dino Rossi, and Mark Kirk down in their races despite most of them being up decisively with indies?"

I think you already know the answer. Do I have to do your homework and write your blog posts for you?

WI is polled before Republicans unite around a candidate. Neither candidate is well-known yet. Feingold captured 83% of his party's vote, while Johnson only had 78%. The sample also had slightly more Democrats than Republicans.

NV: sample more Democrats than Republicans. Reid polls 85% among Dems and Angle polls 81% among Republicans.

WA: Sample is 36% D to 29% R. Murray gets 91% of Dems; Rossi gets 88% of Republicans.

WI and NV: Democrats are incumbents, while Republican challengers are not known statewide.

Feingold, Reid, and Murray are more likely to have topped out as late deciders often break for challengers.

IL: Kirk only trails by 1 when the sample is 42% D and 29% R.

Your poll made sure to ask about Kirk's military record, but not about Giannoulias' bank and his inconsistent statements about his level of involvement with a bank that failed after doing business with organized crime.

Giannoulias holds statewide office, while Kirk has no statewide base. The same can be said of the governor's race between the LtGov and a downstate state senator.

All 4 are in good position to win in November, especially once people lose their illusions about a "recovery" Democrats have been falsely promising.

The trick goes like this:
Conservatives are twice as numerous as liberals (confirmed by gallup over multiple years). Conservatives are roughly 40%, moderates 40%, "liberal" 20%. This means that the group that self-identifies as "moderates" DOES SKEW LEFT.

Dustin Ingalls said...

"No, Dustin. As I've consistently shown, independents are much more in the real center of ideological thought"

Uh, no, you have not shown that. All you do is regurgitate numbers showing independents tending to favor Republican candidates, which does nothing other than show that independents prefer Republican candidates this year in most places. In 2008, they preferred Obama and the Democrats, and those who called themselves independents, which were not exactly the same people who now self-report as independents, were considerably less conservative. Electorates shift.

Those who self-report as moderates are by no means the literal center of political ideology, but neither are independents. When someone says they're independent, they simply mean they don't tend to think of themselves as a member of either of the two major parties (or they think of themselves as a member of a small third party, since we lump other parties in with "independent" in our polls). It says little to nothing of their ideology on any issues. Some of them are very liberal Greens, some of them Libertarians who are socially liberal and fiscally conservative, some are simply wishy-washy and don't know what they believe (then again, that describes a lot of people of both of the two parties as well), some are disgruntled Republicans who tend to vote Republican most of the time anyway, some are disgruntled moderate Dems who tend to vote Demoratic. Most people vote one way or the other most of the time. Centrism as an ideological concept has no real definition, and it changes depending on the issue sets of the time.

You're right that moderates disproportionately fall into the Democratic Party versus the Republican Party at the current time (and probably for some time, as the GOP moves rightward and the Democrats stay a little left of center), but that doesn't make all of them liberals hiding under a moderate disguise. By the same token, independents disproportionately are conservatives right now, versus liberals, so that doesn't make all of them centrists or middle-of-the-road bellwhether voters.

"I think you already know the answer. Do I have to do your homework and write your blog posts for you?"

OK, I'll tell you the answer, or part of it. All those candidates are pretty weak, especially Angle and (because of his lying issues) Kirk (though he could be stronger if not for that). Three of them are running against incumbents, which usually would be a disadvantage, but this year is a wash if not an advantage. One of them is running in a strongly Democratic state (though mainly because of Chicago; rural Illinois is pretty red, as in most states with large, diverse cities, like New York), two of them in Democratic-leaning states, and Nevada has been trending bluer of late, though is still a very close swing state. And all but Kirk currently have locked up less of their GOP base than their Democratic opponents have of their base, though narrowly, and Kirk is only advantaged on that mark because of LeAlan Jones' Green candidacy getting 14%, including 15% of Democrats, though I'm sure his bid will fade considerably in the end (though maybe not as much so as in other years, since voters are pretty fed up with both parties). And the Democrats are helped by having an average of almost 6% more of the electorate than Republicans, though that is skewed by the 13-point margin in Illinois, versus 2 in Wisconsin, 1 in Nevada, and 7 in Washington. Particularly in Wisconsin, self-reported McCain voters have closed the gap with Obama voters considerably since the actual margin of victory in 2008 (Obama won all four states, closest in Nevada, the others by double digits), which is somewhat reflected in the rightward tilt of independents but also the greater enthusiasm of Republicans. That, in a nutshell, is why the Republicans are doing better than would ordinarily be expected in these states but still not good enough to win yet.

Christian Liberty said...

Dustin, a picture's worth a thousand words. And for all your words, you failed to address this:

as opposed to this:

The fact that the proportions of Republicans and Democrats are much more similar than difference between conservatives and liberals is conclusive proof that independents are more representative of the political center than moderates -- not just this election year, but over many years. It's simple math, when %D roughly equals %R, the remainder %I closely straddles the center. But when %conservative doubles %liberal, the remainder %moderate skews sharply to the left. It is not a matter of transient electorates shifting, it is a structural matter that has persisted for years and years of Gallup data.

Now if you can follow my argument, the independent data is not used to prove my argument but rather is used once the Gallup data independently proves the validity of the independent data in preference to the moderate data.

I may have written this blog in reverse order but on the previous board ( you will see that I did indeed show that independents were the proper metric before I got into the details of what the independent data shows.

The independent data is not shown to prove that it should be followed because it favors Republicans. The Gallup data first shows that independents should be watched in preference to moderates to more closely model the center, then I find that independents favor Republicans. I am not showing the polls among independents to prove the value of independents as a subgroup. Gallup's data already shows that independents are more valid than moderates as a representative of the center. I only discuss the data among independents because Gallup's data so conclusively shows that independents are the more valid subgroup rather than moderates.

Dustin Ingalls said...

I could just as easily say that the fact that self-proclaimed conservatives (many of whom are not so conservative, but we'll go with it) outpace self-proclaimed Republicans means that independents are overwhelmingly conservative, not centrists. But you'd like to believe they're in the middle. Of course, because it suits your deluded arguments.

Christian Liberty said...

Dustin, let's look at your deluded argument.

WI: 45-43 Feingold is much better predicted by Feingold's 7 point deficit with independents than his 26 point lead with "moderates".

NV: 48-46 Reid is much better predicted by Reid's 10 point deficit with independents than his 36 point lead with "moderates".

WA: 49-46 Murray is much better predicted by her 12 point deficit with independents than her 25 point lead with "moderates".

Independents are much more representative of the overall electorate, as verified by Gallup and PPP. Independents occupy the median (center) position of political thought. Democrats' inflated margins with moderates are much less predictive of the base electorate, especially since independents have swung more significantly than "moderates". Independents are willing to support Republicans when they atone for their excessive spending and liberalism than "moderates" are willing to see the light.

Christian Liberty said...

Democracy Corps poll:
52% of those who voted in 2008 said they plan to vote Republican to lodge a protest about current economic conditions. Only 41% plan to support Democrats.

Now, does the general electorate sound like they are better represented by independents (who prefer Republicans by 10 points or more) or by "moderates" who prefer Democrats by 20 or 30 points?

Obviously, it is INDEPENDENTS who are mirroring the national trend... and it is "moderates" who are going AGAINST the national trend.

Independents will swing the election for Republicans. "moderates" will vote the wrong way... and mislead anyone looking to them for polling insights.

Dustin Ingalls said...

I have explicitly said I am not arguing that moderates are the swing group, but that independents are not necessarily the ideological center. Yes, they are the swing group, and their opinion often very closely mirrors the overall standing of candidates and always more closely than either of the two parties' voters. We are in agreement there. But it is still important to look at moderates because they are the people who fancy themselves to be centrists, and they are actually favoring Republicans less this year than they did in 2008 in many if not most cases, which is an indicator, along with other data about views of particular Republican candidates and the GOP as a party, that Republicans are perceived to be (because they are) moving significantly to the right this year.

Christian Liberty said...

The American people WANT the Republicans to move to the right. And they want Democrats to move to the right as well.

Republicans are smart enough to do the right thing and the popular thing.

Democrats are arrogant and misguided enough to do the WRONG thing and the unpopular thing.

Republicans are obviously right on both policy and politics. And Democrats are wrong on both.

Anonymous said...

Go Wargotz. Better check out latest Rassmusen poll. He is on the move!

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