Very sobering read. -Patrick
A new poll by widely respected Public Opinion Strategies pollster Glen Bolger has some very interesting data on an important question: What do voters think of the Republic message when it isn’t attached to the GOP label? His data is a perfect way to test whether voters…
A. Like what we have to say but simply don’t trust us after Bush, Iraq, Katrina, overspending, the bridge to nowhere, endless scandals (need I go on?).
B. Don’t like us because they don’t agree with what we say we want to do for the country.
The poll was conducted with Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg for NPR, and Glen Bolger emailed it out to POS’s client list this week. I posted the poll up online here. The part I’m talking about starts on page 24. Be sure to read the poll before scrolling down if you want to look at the data without being biased by my or Glen’s analysis. For those who don't know POS is probably the most prominent GOP polling firm.
Ok read it? Now here’s Glen’s takeaway in a scathing memo you can find here.
The news in the survey is NOT the terrible political environment – you already are aware of that, and if you are not, please retire. The news is NOT that John McCain has a slight deficit when matched against Barack Obama, despite stronger support for McCain from Republicans than Obama gets from Democrats (see my April memo for why that is a challenge for ALL Republican campaigns). NOR is the news that voters are angry about gas prices and think the Democrats are better able to handle the economy.
Instead, the news is the four match-ups between the Republican message and the Democrats’ message on the key issues of the economy, Iraq, trade, and taxes. The Democratic message consistently won out over the GOP message by eleven to 25 points.
Let’s take a deeper look into the data and see how our messages play when voters know where they’re from and when they don’t know which party is saying what. If you want the exact wording of both parties’ message and the full data, go back and take a second look at the poll.
Let’s start with the economy. When voters know what party each message comes from, we lose 37% to 58% and trail among independents by 18%. Ouch. However, when you read both messages without telling voters who they come from, the story gets worse.
Republican voters like the Democrat’s message more than their own party’s message by a large 14% margin when they don’t know which party it comes from. Just as disturbing, numbers among independents drop by another 10%... giving the Democrats a massive 28% advantage. Even our horrifically damaged image is better than our message on the economy. Independents and even Republicans simply like the Democrats’ plan more than ours.
Iraq and trade both follow the exact same pattern. We’re getting smashed on both issues on the partisan test, but when you look at the nonpartisan test where our damaged image isn’t a factor, the numbers get even worse among Independents and Republicans. A few Democrats (and in the case of trade a bunch of Democrats) move our way on the nonpartisan ballot, but Independents actually agree with our messages more when they know the messages came from Republicans.
On taxes, the picture gets more complex. On the partisan text, Independents like the Democrats’ message by significant 14% margin, but Republicans still like our message and give us a resounding 39% advantage. That changes drastically on the nonpartisan test.
When the party’s names are removed, Independents are almost evenly split, giving the Democrats’ message a small 5% advantage. However, Republican voters stampede away from the GOP message. Among Republicans, support for the GOP message on taxes drops by a gargantuan 53% when the party’s names are removed, leaving the Democrats with a 14% advantage. You read that right, on the nonpartisan test, Independents like the GOP message on taxes more than Republicans do and even Independents slightly favor the Democrats.
The takeaway? Our message right now is electoral poison and this isn’t all about “brand.”
There's a lot more to be said about these numbers, I’d love to hear everyone’s take on them in the comments section. I’ll close with some more advice from Glen Bolger’s memo:
Look at some of the language in the themes that the NPR survey tested from the Democrats. You might not feel comfortable with all of the examples below, but if you think Republicans can not use any of those, that’s simply too much Inside the Beltway thinking:
- “The economy has worked well for CEOs but not for the middle class, and we need a big change in direction.”
- “We should repeal the special tax breaks for companies moving jobs overseas and for the oil companies.”
- “We need to cut middle class taxes across the board, limit drug prices, and make health care more affordable.”
- “We should partner with business to invest in clean alternative energy to create the jobs of the future.”
- “We must strengthen America’s security by starting to reduce our troops in Iraq in a responsible way, force the Iraqi government to use its oil money to pay for reconstruction, and work with other nations to bring stability.”
- “With such financial pressures on families, we need to focus completely on middle class tax relief and making sure government works for them, not the special interests.”