Monday, July 02, 2007

Stalking the Wild (White & Male) Elephant

It's another Festival of Polling Data. You might want to look at the full Fabrizio presentation. The presentation doesn't explain where the names of the GOP subgroups comes from, and my editor wanted to know who were "Dennis Miller Republicans." So I pulled the slide, and according to Fabrizio, they're 14% of self-identified Republicans, who are part of the social/cultural faction. According to the survey, the characteristics are:
  • Focused on social issues
  • Focused on illegal immigration, they strongly oppose people gaming the system to get a "free lunch"
  • Like "Hawks" they oppose timelines for the war
  • Like "Free Marketeers" they oppose expanded government to solve problems
  • More likely to be male
  • Disproportionately found in the South and West
  • They are more likely to be gun owners
It's slide 26 of the media briefing. This group breaks for Giuliani and Fred Thompson, with McCain in third place. It's not clear where Dennis Miller fits into this schematic, other than these would be the elusive (or illusory) "South Park Republicans" but instead they're focused on social issues and aren't socially liberal (or libertarian) at all. My theory is that these are the demographics of the only people left who still might think that Dennis Miller is funny.

Republicans overall also are 93% white and 2% Hispanic, but that's a story for another day. I'm grateful that the editor gave me my headline; for too long, pundits would talk about Democrats having a problem because we didn't attract enough white male voters because we could win only if we captured majorities of female and minority voters -- as if everybody else's votes than white males were somehow less valuable or meaningful.

East Valley Tribune, July 1, 2007

It’s like learning a foreign language, but I studied a detailed national poll of 2,000 self-described Republicans by GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio. The survey, called "The Elephant Looks in the Mirror 10 Years Later," follows Fabrizio’s similarly large 1997 survey.

Most news reports focused on GOP attitudes toward Iraq, which are somewhat divided. A third of Republicans want to withdraw, while nearly two-thirds still strongly support the war. Fabrizio also polled the 2008 GOP presidential race, and found Rudy Giuliani leading (30 percent), followed by John McCain (17 percent) and Fred Thompson (15 percent) -- but support is very soft; 74 percent said they could change their minds.

Other stories have focused on the relative ambivalence of self-described Republicans on abortion and gay marriage. The survey was funded by four GOP groups, including the Log Cabin Republicans, which reject right-wing social issues. Not surprisingly -- but statistically -- the poll vindicates the sponsors’ attitudes; two-thirds of Republicans said they could support a candidate for president with whom they disagreed on abortion, and more Republicans support allowing gays to serve in the military than support a ban (49 percent to 42 percent).

But the most interesting findings concern ideology and demographics. Significantly more Republicans -- 71 percent, up from 55 percent 10 years ago -- describe themselves as "conservative." Most of that gain came from moderates, with some attrition from self-described liberals. There apparently are some liberal Republicans left, just not in Arizona.

This finding means that Democrats should stop wasting time describing ourselves as "progressives" to avoid being called "liberals." The way Republicans, especially in Arizona, keep moving farther and farther to the right, unless you’ve spent the past decade streaking leftward, they've made you a moderate automatically. "Moderate" is a wonderful label in general elections but it's a huge insult in Republican primaries. (Even GOP moderates call themselves conservatives these days; the usual euphemism is "common-sense conservative" to distinguish from the real crazies.)

The survey does show some ambiguity over what being a "conservative" means; more Republicans -- 33 percent to 22 percent -- said government wasn’t doing enough about global warming than those who said government was doing too much. Half said government should guarantee universal health care as a right. Apparently, self-described conservatives now approve of socialized medicine.

Republicans also have become significantly older. In 1997, 28 percent were 55 and older; this year, 41 percent are. The middle-aged (35-54) declined from 44 percent to 40 percent of Republicans, while the young (18-34) dropped from 25 percent to 17 percent. Democrats still assume elderly voters are grateful about Social Security and Medicare, but today’s geezers weren’t paying attention when those programs started, and they see no reason to show gratitude. The graying GOP also means that Bush’s failed effort to privatize Social Security could have threatened the loyalty of some GOP base voters just as much as did his failed efforts on immigration reform.

But the biggest ideological finding in the survey is the decline in GOP voters to whom economic issues are primary. The GOP social-cultural base (Fabrizio’s "Moralists," "Dennis Miller Republicans," and "Government Knows Best Republicans," all united by their belief that government should enforce certain behaviors) is now 51 percent of Republicans. Economically-oriented Republicans ("Free Marketeers" and "Heartland Republicans") have shrunk to 16 percent, with the balance represented by those for whom foreign policy is most important ("Bush Hawks" and "Fortress America Republicans"). That’s shrinkage of the economic wing of the party by nearly two-thirds.

Thus, the libertarian wing of the party is incredibly overrepresented on the Internet and in the Tribune. Remember "South Park Republicans?" According to this survey, their actual numbers are about the size of South Park’s cast.

So while reading these pages or the blogs, remember you’re hearing from a very small percentage of Republicans -- and that’s why the GOP candidates just aren’t talking about those issues. If Fabrizio's right, Republicans are getting older, more conservative, and less like America every decade.


Anonymous said...

How are Republicans less like America? I may have missed where you made that point.

I have been a Dem my entire life, but I must tell you there are things going on in the Party now that make me believe we are the one's who are less like America.

The one thing that stands out right now is the issue with all the illegals in our Country, I believe the vast majority of people here are not for handing them citizenship, but I dont see the Dems doing much to stop it!!

The Party needs to move closer to the middle or even to the right on some issues before we can even think we are more like America

Sam said...

They're older, more conservative, more male, more white than the country. The US is changing, make sure you change with it -- and please don't become one of those frustrated (& frustrating) older guys always complaining about how everything that happened since you were 13 absolutely stinks.