Saturday, March 23, 2013

Kohut: GOP Base Out of Touch

Andrew Kohut, former president of polling institutions Gallup and the Pew Research Center, says the Republican base has moved far to the right of the American political mainstream in The Washington Post.

The party’s base is increasingly dominated by a highly energized bloc of voters with extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues: the size and role of government, foreign policy, social issues, and moral concerns. They stand with the tea party on taxes and spending and with Christian conservatives on key social questions, such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage.  These staunch conservatives, who emerged with great force in the Obama era, represent 45 percent of the Republican base. According to our 2011 survey, they are demographically and politically distinct from the national electorate. Ninety-two percent are white. They tend to be male, married, Protestant, well off and at least 50 years old.

Knowing how this slice of the electorate came together is key to understanding why GOP lawmakers have been able to withstand the public backlash seen in polls — and why the party will face great difficulty in reinventing itself.  According to our polling, three factors stand out in the emergence of the GOP’s staunch conservative bloc: ideological resistance to President Obama’s policies, discomfort with the changing face of America and the influence of conservative media.

This data supports a study from the University of Maryland using exit poll data from the 2010 midterms (swept by the GOP) which found that big majorities of voters held false beliefs about health care reform, tax policy, climate change, the bank bailout and other salient issues.  The study also found that regular viewers of Fox News were significantly more likely to hold these false views.

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