Bruce and I almost never coordinate our blogging, only occasionally alerting each other to a post we have planned, so this afternoon I was surprised and pleased to see that he had blogged on the latest Gallup poll showing conservatives maintaining their edge as the top ideological group. Yesterday morning, while in Santa Barbara, I chanced on that very poll via Jennifer Rubin’s Commentary Contentions piece and had scribbled a note (before joining friends for breakfast) to blog on it when I returned to Los Angeles.
But, so caught up was I in my dissertation research when I returned that I didn’t get the blog until late in the afternoon. And Bruce had already brought the poll to your attention. Still, its significance cannot be underestimated. And not just as a rebuke to the president. It also serves as a kind of rebuke to the GOP.
Coupled with a Club for Growth polling showing “Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman surging into the lead in the special election in New York’s 23rd congressional district to replace John McHugh,” this suggests that the road to Republican victory means adopting more conservative policies–and not following the pundits’ advice in nominating candidates like that race’s GOP nominee, third-place finisher Dede Scozzafava.
Now, contrast this with the latest Gallup poll on party identification. 27% of Americans identify as Republican–that’s 13 points fewer than those who describe themselves as conservative. 35% identify as Democrats–15 points higher than those who describe themselves as liberal.
In a column this past summer, Michael Barone boiled down this phenomenon:
The result is that the two parties have offsetting political advantages. Democrats tend to win on party identification. Republicans tend to win on ideology. Democrats don’t have to appeal to as many independents as Republicans do. Republicans don’t have to appeal to as many moderates as Democrats do.
It’s hard to see Democrats holding onto a third of the electorate if the President and Congress continue in their big-spending liberal ways. Barone’s explanation reinforces our theory that the GOP has been losing ground in recent years because it lost sight of conservative ideology.
But, will those moderates move over to a more conservative GOP? Perhaps, if it’s conservative on the issues where many of them lean to the right. And Gallup polls do suggest that opposing big government is one such issue.