These days, many are saying that Americans are profoundly divided, in a way that we haven’t seen in a long time. That might be true. But it seems to me that our electorate is as much confused as divided. Some of the current data at Rasmussen Reports illustrate the point. It is useful, I think, to look at multiple data points from the same source, so that differing results are not attributable, presumably, to polling techniques or skewed samples.
Rasmussen asks the question: Do you agree more politically with President Obama, or with the average member of the Tea Party? A good question, ripped from the daily headlines. The response? Dead even, 42% agree more with Obama, 42% with the Tea Party. But other findings are hard to reconcile: only 30% of voters have a favorable view of the Tea Party, while 50% are unfavorable. How can only 30% of voters view the Tea Party favorably, if 42% say they agree more with the grass roots movement than with the president?
Then there is this:
Even prior to the shutdown, voters who approve of the president’s job performance were slightly more likely to consider the Tea Party a bigger terrorist threat to the United States than radical Muslims.
Even though no Tea Party member has ever carried out any terrorist act. For whatever reasons–more about this later–intensity is very much on the side of the Left.
Here are more data that I find puzzling. Rasmussen finds that 62% think cutting spending rather than increasing it is the best thing the federal government can do to help the economy. I agree. Not only that, a whopping 64% have an unfavorable opinion of the federal government. So that means people want to throw the Democrats out and elect a Republican Congress, right? Because the Democrats pretty much control the federal government, and no one can imagine them ever cutting spending.
Wrong: Democrats lead Republicans in the generic preference poll, 43%-37%. Is that because voters think the Democrats have been leading the country in the right direction, so they want more of the same? Just kidding. Americans are pessimistic: by 41% to 33%, they think the economy will be weaker a year from now, not stronger.
If you can make sense out of all of this, please explain in the comments. To me, it looks like an electorate in a severe state of confusion.
Which applies, I think, to the public’s attitude toward Barack Obama. Obama has never been a popular president. From the early months of his administration, a plurality of voters have strongly disapproved of his performance. And yet he somehow was re-elected. This historic chart of Obama’s approval index, the difference between those who strongly approve and strongly disapprove of his performance, is, I think illuminating:
Notice how approval of Obama started to tank almost immediately after his inauguration, while disapproval rose to a high level, and generally stayed there. But then the 2012 election came along. Strong disapproval didn’t budge, but strong approval rose steadily through the campaign. On election day, Obama’s approval index was still negative, something like -8, but better than it had been since the early days of his administration. That was enough to put him over the top. Post-election, disapproval dropped briefly, as some Republicans were willing to wipe the slate clean. But that didn’t last long; nor did Obama’s improved approval rating, which, as soon as the election was safely over, dropped back into the toilet.
But then, just recently, Obama’s strong approval percentage spiked. Why? That was the standoff over the government shutdown. And Democrats, many of whom think Obama is doing a lousy job, rallied back to his support. Once the shutdown was over, what happened? Strong approval plummeted again, and Obama’s approval index stands currently at an ice-cold -17.
So history tells us that voters, even many Democratic voters, don’t think much of Obama, except when he is viewed in sharp conflict with Republicans. When that happens, as during an election campaign or the shutdown episode, Democrats (and probably some independents) rally to his cause and tell pollsters that they think Obama is a terrific president. In reality, they think no such thing. They just think he is better than those awful Republicans.
So among some 30% to 40% of the electorate, the dominant factor appears to be hatred of Republicans. No matter how incompetent Obama is, no matter how hateful Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi may be, no matter how badly the economy goes into the tank, these voters consistently view Democrats as the lesser of evils. Why? Because they are subjected to a constant barrage of hate, directed toward Republicans. I have documented the Democrats’ email hate campaign many times over the last year or two; the latest instance landed in my inbox yesterday. The subject line said “deep trouble.” If you haven’t noticed, the Democratic Party rarely capitalizes subject lines–the result, presumably, of focus group testing on young people.
From: Democrats 2014 [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, October 28, 2013 1:53 PM
To: Hinderaker, John H.
Subject: deep trouble
John — We’re reviewing our membership records in advance of this week’s FEC fundraising deadline. Your record is copied-and-pasted below:
[omitted--don't worry, I don't give them any money]
Just last week “Americans for Prosperity,” a Koch brothers brainchild, rolled out anti-Obamacare ads against Democrats in 4 states. Frankly, we didn’t expect the Koch brothers to start this election cycle by dumping more cash into Congressional races than ever before.
There are no conservatives; there are no Republicans; there are only the Koch brothers. In the Democrats’ world, there is no such thing as disagreement. There is no such thing as political debate. There is only treason.
If we get buried on this week’s FEC fundraising deadline, our chances of winning a Democratic House for President Obama are in deep trouble.
We only have 72 hours left to fill this $550,000 fundraising hole.
The idea that the Democrats could ever be in a “fundraising hole” is ridiculous. Year after year, they consistently raise more money than Republicans. But their fundraising pitches always claim that it is the fourth quarter, and they are behind.
Click here to give $3 to our Republican Accountability Fund before the FEC deadline>>
The latest polls show that we have a real shot at defeating House Republicans who backed Boehner’s disastrous government shutdown — but the truth is those numbers won’t hold if we don’t have the resources to fend off deceptive Koch brothers-backed attacks.
As we have noted many times before, the Democrats’ appeals to their faithful are invariably fact-free. How are the Koch brothers’ (i.e., Republicans’) attacks “deceptive?” Why, exactly, should one be contributing to Democrats rather than Republicans? These things are never–and I mean never–explained. There are simply two teams, our team and their team, and our team, the Democrats, are the good guys. So give us money!
Our biggest fundraising deadline of the year hits THIS WEEK. If you’ve been planning to contribute, we could really use your support today.
Democratic voters have been on the receiving end of so much hate propaganda against the Republican Party, that all Democrats need to do is be the not-Republicans and their voters will turn out–no matter that Obamacare is a disaster, no matter that the economy is going down the drain, no matter that we are $17 trillion in debt, no matter that Obama’s foreign policy is a shambles, no matter that Obama himself has been revealed as an incompetent and a liar. Hatred for Republicans trumps everything else.
I think that explains the trends we see in Obama’s approval index, but I also think it explains more than that: what Democrats get in raw, undiluted form is merely the full-strength version of the anti-Republican propaganda that all Americans are exposed to every day. In the newspapers, on television, in the movies, in news magazines, in “women’s” magazines and gossip columns, in academia, wherever you look, Americans are being told to despise Republicans and conservatives.
That is, I think, what mostly accounts for the confusion of the average, low-to-medium information voter. He thinks the government is too big and too powerful; he thinks federal spending should be cut; he thinks Obamacare will probably hurt his family’s health care; he sees the Democrats represented by risible figures like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi; he considers the economy to be rotten and expects it to get worse; he sees young people struggling to find full-time employment; he considers Obama a failed president; he sees the United States frustrated and humiliated on the international scene. And yet…all of that must be weighed against the fact that the only alternative to Obama and the Democrats is the dreaded Republicans, about whom no one ever says a good word in public. I think that is the fundamental reason for the seemingly contradictory feelings that voters express to pollsters. They–not all, but clearly a majority–are more in sympathy with Republican than Democratic principles, but they know it is socially improper to say so. Hence the confusion that we see reflected in the polls.