Measuring GOP Extremism: What Carville and Greenberg's Latest Polling Reveals
A Commentary By Joe Conason
It is becoming increasingly plain that the most formidable obstacle to national progress and global security is the Republican Party -- and specifically the extremist factions that currently dominate the GOP.
Now Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and political strategist James Carville have announced what they plan to do about that pressing problem: namely, "The Republican Party Project," which will provide extensive survey research devoted to "exposing, monitoring, and confronting" the Republicans while helping Democrats and progressives to regain the political offensive.
To begin advancing these ambitious goals, Carville and Greenberg released the first in a series of polls on Wednesday that showcased several of their target's most divisive and dysfunctional features -- and revealed some surprising weaknesses that could eventually prove disabling, if not fatal.
In surveys of more than 1,700 U. S. voters conducted for Democracy Corps between July 10 and July 15, the methodology used by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner oversampled Republicans in order to allow detailed analysis of two subgroups: Republicans themselves and independents who lean toward the GOP. The overall margin of error was under 3 percent and the margin of error for Republicans was about 4 percent.
According to Carville and Greenberg -- whose presidential polling proved the best national voter survey in 2012, predicting the popular vote with pinpoint accuracy -- Republican extremism is leaving the party increasingly isolated, even from many of its own members.
At the moment, only 31 percent of voters identify as Republicans, compared with 38 percent who identify as Democrats and 30 percent who call themselves independents. (Aggregated surveys collected by Pollster currently confirm an even worse scenario, with Democrats at 34 percent and Republicans at 23 percent.)
But just as significant as party identification is how voters see the Republican "brand." Although Democrats as a party and in Congress are not exactly beloved, their net negatives are around 10 points below those of the Republicans, who are regarded with absolute disdain by most of those polled. Only 13 percent believe that the GOP "shares their values" and only 9 percent believe that the GOP has "realistic solutions to the nation's problems."
The project's polling also uncovered bad omens for Republicans among almost all age cohorts. While the Republicans can cite a statistically meaningless 1 percent advantage among Generation X voters, the party has no "generational base" and is strongly disfavored by both Baby Boomers and Millennials.
Indeed, the gap between the parties among upcoming Millennials is nearly 20 points, with only 21 percent identifying as Republican -- a data point that Republican leaders may well find terrifying. Moreover, the Republican base is holed up in rapidly depopulating rural areas, while cities and suburbs strongly favor Democrats.
It is also worth noting how alienated moderate Republicans are from their own party, with nearly half regarding it as "too extreme." Up to 40 percent of moderate Republicans regard their party as "out of touch," a statement that resonates with 46 percent of Republican-leaning independent voters. Nearly 40 percent of moderate Republicans believe the party is "dividing the country."
Meanwhile, the project's survey suggests that Republicans in the dominant tea party and evangelical wings of the GOP are increasingly isolated not only from moderates in their own party but from independent voters, as well, on such issues as abortion, gay marriage, climate change and by their corrosive hatred of President Obama and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
On climate change, for example, overwhelming percentages of Democrats (95), Democratic-leaning independents (87), Independents (76) and moderate Republicans (62) all agree that strong action must be taken to offset atmospheric warming caused by human activity -- while only 23 percent of tea party adherents and 34 percent of evangelicals share that scientifically-based perspective.
On gun control, 71 percent of tea party adherents feel strongly favorable toward the NRA, while only 34 percent of moderate Republicans and 34 percent of Independents harbor positive feelings toward the gun lobby.
Perhaps most worrisome to Republicans looking toward 2016 with trepidation, the strongly unfavorable attitudes toward Hillary Clinton expressed by tea party (75 percent) and evangelical (66 percent) groups within the GOP are not echoed by more mainstream voters. Only 22 percent of independents -- and only 34 percent of moderate Republicans -- share that negative view of the former secretary of state, who is widely considered most likely to be the next Democratic presidential nominee.
But Carville and Greenberg promise that this is only the beginning of the bad news for the Grand Old Party -- and the future findings of the Republican Party Project will appear first in these pages.
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