Electoral Discrepancies

There is a frustrating disconnect between different facets of American public opinion and voting behavior: the inconsistency between public opinion about a wide range of topics and Americans' identification with the two major political parties and especially their voting behavior in presidential elections. (I don't focus on off-year elections, since their electorates -- roughly 20 percentage points smaller than in presidential contests -- don't always act on the same kinds of stimuli.)

Polls indicate that public opinion leans to the right on many issues.

When pollsters tap party allegiance, however, Democrats outnumber Republicans. A late July poll for the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press, for example, found that 48% of the public identified with or leaned to the Democrats, 37% identified with or leaned to the GOP, and the remainder were Independents or did not answer.

This is important, because party identification is the most important determinant of how most people vote in presidential elections.

It is not surprising, then, that Democrats fared better at the polls in 2012 than Republicans did. Not only did Barack Obama win 50.8% of the popular vote for president, but Democrats picked up two Senate seats.

The GOP retained a majority in the House of Representatives, but they lost seats and garnered only 48% of the popular vote. Rasmussen polls show that, when "likely voters" are asked to choose between hypothetical Democrat and Republican House candidates, the former almost always narrowly win. Moreover, polls indicate that, if the 2016 election were held today, Hillary Clinton will probably be the Democrat nominee, and she could be the next president.

We need to understand why this discrepancy is happening if we are to end it.

Let us consider polls showing that, over a wide range of issues, public opinion leans to the right.

I focus first on the public's views of the economy, since economic issues are allegedly upper-most in people's minds when they vote.

Public opinion analysts focus on one indicator of public opinion about the U.S. economy over several decades: the Gallup "Economic Confidence Index" (ECI), which is built from how people rate economic conditions in the country and whether they believe the nation's economy is getting better or worse. The ECI ranges from +100 to -100, with negative scores indicating lack of public confidence in the nation's economy.

The latest Gallup poll tapping the ECI (August 6, 2013), has a value of -12. Gallup polls during July have witnessed the lowest level of public confidence in the U.S. economy since early April. (Rasmussen daily polls show essentially the same thing.) Indeed, every poll tapping the ECI in 2013 has had a negative value. The lowest score was -22 in early March; the highest was -3 in early June. The average for the year has been -12.
At that, economic confidence in 2013 has been higher than it was in 2011 and 2012.

So what? At least since Anthony Downs' An Economic Theory of Democracy in 1957 students of American elections have believed that a lack of public confidence in the economy boded ill for an incumbent president seeking re-election. (Think Jimmy Carter [1980] and George H. W. Bush [1992].)

That is why Mitt Romney and his advisors confidently approached the 2012 election; they were allegedly shocked by its outcome. Jerome Corsi's What Went Wrong analyzes the GOP's "debacle" last year, and suggests how it can be avoided.

Corsi believes that a combination of superior technical know-how plus Democrats' advantage over the GOP in identity politics enabled Obama to win. A hostile mainstream media (MSM), which amplified the Obamians' negative campaign, and Romney's inability to connect with potential GOP voters, were also important.
Nonetheless, many facets of public opinion should have favored Republicans.

Polls from several polling organizations, utilizing different questions, lead to the same conclusion: whether the topic be government regulation of business, Obamacare, government spending and the national debt, the welfare state, government control of Americans' daily lives, or trust in the federal government, larger percentages of the public express "conservative" opinions.

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in late September, 2012, for example, asked respondents, "[i]f you had to choose, would you rather have a smaller government providing fewer services or a bigger government providing more services." Fifty-one percent of the respondents opted for a smaller government while 40% chose a bigger government, and the rest said "it depends" or did not answer.

Finally, polls routinely show that the percentage of the public saying their political views are conservative is larger than the proportion claiming to be liberal. Six Pew Research Center polls in 2013, for instance, found that an average of 38% of the public said their political views were "very conservative" or "conservative," 21% said their opinions were "very liberal" or "liberal," 37% indicated they were moderates, and the rest had no opinion.
So why don't these political dispositions which seem to favor the GOP pay off at the polls? At least three reasons appear to be responsible for recent Democrat successes in presidential elections.

First, forget any hope that Americans' seeming preference for conservatism has palpable political consequences. Most Americans don't know what "liberalism" and "conservatism" mean, and less than 10% of the citizenry assess presidential candidates and political parties in ideological terms.

Second, recall that party affiliation is the strongest single determinant of how most people vote in presidential elections. The balance of partisanship has generally favored the Democrats since the 1930s.

Corsi highlights the third reason: Democrats are willing to do anything, including lying, to minimize their political weaknesses, and they "change the subject" to focus attention on GOP weaknesses. They are aided by a pliant MSM.

As examples, think of how the Obamians touted Republicans' "war on women" in 2012, and how, in the second presidential debate, Candy Crowley badly distorted Obama's comments about Benghazi. (Why Romney let her get away with it is another matter.)

No simplistic strategy will usher in a "brave new world" of electoral politics. Moreover, space limitations preclude detailed recommendations. Still, a few points should be made.

First, end "Me-Too" Republican presidential nominees who are retreads from previous campaigns. They have too much baggage.

Second, learn from the other guy's successes. Study how the Obamians' campaign methods worked, and adopt those Corsi describes. Yesterday's campaign methods aren't sufficient any longer. What this will likely mean, for future presidential nominees is finding "young guns" and giving them leeway to do their thing.

Third, from the campaign's first day, be aggressive. Identify Democrats' weaknesses, and keep focused on them. Stop worrying when left-wingers and their MSM mouthpieces scream "mean-spirited partisanship!" When they drag out that old saw, ridicule them. (They should be reminded of what Harry Truman said about heat in the kitchen.)

Fourth, when the Democrats resort to old playbook tactics, such as class warfare and/or wails about "wars on women," etc., call 'em on it. (Cockroaches eschew daylight, and so do leftists.)

Others have good ideas. I look forward to reading them. Distill the good ones into a new GOP playbook.

There is a frustrating disconnect between different facets of American public opinion and voting behavior: the inconsistency between public opinion about a wide range of topics and Americans' identification with the two major political parties and especially their voting behavior in presidential elections. (I don't focus on off-year elections, since their electorates -- roughly 20 percentage points smaller than in presidential contests -- don't always act on the same kinds of stimuli.)

Polls indicate that public opinion leans to the right on many issues.

When pollsters tap party allegiance, however, Democrats outnumber Republicans. A late July poll for the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press, for example, found that 48% of the public identified with or leaned to the Democrats, 37% identified with or leaned to the GOP, and the remainder were Independents or did not answer.

This is important, because party identification is the most important determinant of how most people vote in presidential elections.

It is not surprising, then, that Democrats fared better at the polls in 2012 than Republicans did. Not only did Barack Obama win 50.8% of the popular vote for president, but Democrats picked up two Senate seats.

The GOP retained a majority in the House of Representatives, but they lost seats and garnered only 48% of the popular vote. Rasmussen polls show that, when "likely voters" are asked to choose between hypothetical Democrat and Republican House candidates, the former almost always narrowly win. Moreover, polls indicate that, if the 2016 election were held today, Hillary Clinton will probably be the Democrat nominee, and she could be the next president.

We need to understand why this discrepancy is happening if we are to end it.

Let us consider polls showing that, over a wide range of issues, public opinion leans to the right.

I focus first on the public's views of the economy, since economic issues are allegedly upper-most in people's minds when they vote.

Public opinion analysts focus on one indicator of public opinion about the U.S. economy over several decades: the Gallup "Economic Confidence Index" (ECI), which is built from how people rate economic conditions in the country and whether they believe the nation's economy is getting better or worse. The ECI ranges from +100 to -100, with negative scores indicating lack of public confidence in the nation's economy.

The latest Gallup poll tapping the ECI (August 6, 2013), has a value of -12. Gallup polls during July have witnessed the lowest level of public confidence in the U.S. economy since early April. (Rasmussen daily polls show essentially the same thing.) Indeed, every poll tapping the ECI in 2013 has had a negative value. The lowest score was -22 in early March; the highest was -3 in early June. The average for the year has been -12.
At that, economic confidence in 2013 has been higher than it was in 2011 and 2012.

So what? At least since Anthony Downs' An Economic Theory of Democracy in 1957 students of American elections have believed that a lack of public confidence in the economy boded ill for an incumbent president seeking re-election. (Think Jimmy Carter [1980] and George H. W. Bush [1992].)

That is why Mitt Romney and his advisors confidently approached the 2012 election; they were allegedly shocked by its outcome. Jerome Corsi's What Went Wrong analyzes the GOP's "debacle" last year, and suggests how it can be avoided.

Corsi believes that a combination of superior technical know-how plus Democrats' advantage over the GOP in identity politics enabled Obama to win. A hostile mainstream media (MSM), which amplified the Obamians' negative campaign, and Romney's inability to connect with potential GOP voters, were also important.
Nonetheless, many facets of public opinion should have favored Republicans.

Polls from several polling organizations, utilizing different questions, lead to the same conclusion: whether the topic be government regulation of business, Obamacare, government spending and the national debt, the welfare state, government control of Americans' daily lives, or trust in the federal government, larger percentages of the public express "conservative" opinions.

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in late September, 2012, for example, asked respondents, "[i]f you had to choose, would you rather have a smaller government providing fewer services or a bigger government providing more services." Fifty-one percent of the respondents opted for a smaller government while 40% chose a bigger government, and the rest said "it depends" or did not answer.

Finally, polls routinely show that the percentage of the public saying their political views are conservative is larger than the proportion claiming to be liberal. Six Pew Research Center polls in 2013, for instance, found that an average of 38% of the public said their political views were "very conservative" or "conservative," 21% said their opinions were "very liberal" or "liberal," 37% indicated they were moderates, and the rest had no opinion.
So why don't these political dispositions which seem to favor the GOP pay off at the polls? At least three reasons appear to be responsible for recent Democrat successes in presidential elections.

First, forget any hope that Americans' seeming preference for conservatism has palpable political consequences. Most Americans don't know what "liberalism" and "conservatism" mean, and less than 10% of the citizenry assess presidential candidates and political parties in ideological terms.

Second, recall that party affiliation is the strongest single determinant of how most people vote in presidential elections. The balance of partisanship has generally favored the Democrats since the 1930s.

Corsi highlights the third reason: Democrats are willing to do anything, including lying, to minimize their political weaknesses, and they "change the subject" to focus attention on GOP weaknesses. They are aided by a pliant MSM.

As examples, think of how the Obamians touted Republicans' "war on women" in 2012, and how, in the second presidential debate, Candy Crowley badly distorted Obama's comments about Benghazi. (Why Romney let her get away with it is another matter.)

No simplistic strategy will usher in a "brave new world" of electoral politics. Moreover, space limitations preclude detailed recommendations. Still, a few points should be made.

First, end "Me-Too" Republican presidential nominees who are retreads from previous campaigns. They have too much baggage.

Second, learn from the other guy's successes. Study how the Obamians' campaign methods worked, and adopt those Corsi describes. Yesterday's campaign methods aren't sufficient any longer. What this will likely mean, for future presidential nominees is finding "young guns" and giving them leeway to do their thing.

Third, from the campaign's first day, be aggressive. Identify Democrats' weaknesses, and keep focused on them. Stop worrying when left-wingers and their MSM mouthpieces scream "mean-spirited partisanship!" When they drag out that old saw, ridicule them. (They should be reminded of what Harry Truman said about heat in the kitchen.)

Fourth, when the Democrats resort to old playbook tactics, such as class warfare and/or wails about "wars on women," etc., call 'em on it. (Cockroaches eschew daylight, and so do leftists.)

Others have good ideas. I look forward to reading them. Distill the good ones into a new GOP playbook.

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