ABC-WaPo Poll: Conservatives Not Crazy About GOP, Broad Interest For a Third Party Alternative

Those are two conclusions one can draw from an ABC News-Washington Post poll released today:

Favorable views of the Democratic Party have fallen to their lowest since the Reagan landslide of 1984. Even fewer Americans see the Republican Party positively, and Americans by 2-1 say they’d welcome an independent alternative for president.

However, as the pollster notes, support for an alternative to the Democrat-Republican status quo is broad but not particularly deep, and translating a favorable attitude toward a third party into actual action in the voting booth has been historically problematic:

For its part, interest in a nonparty alternative is broader than it is deep. While six in 10 Americans like the idea of an independent running for president, far fewer, 25 percent, endorse it strongly. And the reality is that partisanship retains a powerful pull; the best showing by a third-party candidate in recent times was Ross Perot’s 18.9 percent in 1992 – then, as now, a time of broad economic discontent.

This is true, of course, but at some point things will have to change or the United States as we’ve known it will cease to be.  The current “Republicrat” system is irreparably broken (see federal deficit super committee, for example) and it’s only a matter of time before a sufficient number of voters come to this realization and consigns the Washington Establishment of both parties to the dustbin of history.

There’s nothing in the constitution that enshrines crony capitalism as the key determent of public policy yet that’s precisely what the arrangement has become in present day Washington for both parties. The practice doesn’t change from election to election, just the beneficiaries. This is unsustainable.  Sooner or later (I’m guessing sooner) a candidate will emerge with a common sense, constitutionalist message — and the charisma to carry it through — and the party will end for the self-anointed permanent political class which bears total responsibility for the current, unhappy state of affairs with which we’re confronted.

The other aspect of the ABC-WaPo poll I found interesting had to do with the approval and disapproval of the two parties.  The poll notes that approval for the Democrat Party is near an all-time low.

The Democratic Party’s rating is its lowest in polls since November 1984, days before Ronald Reagan’s landslide re-election, when it hit 47 percent favorable.

This is not surprising given the disaster that is the Obama Presidency.  However, while Republican Party approval is not close to an all-time low, it’s still 8 points lower than Democrat Party approval.

The Republican Party is better off than its historic low in popularity (31 percent in 1998, upon the impeachment of Bill Clinton) but still 8 points below the Democrats.

This made no sense to me.  Given that polls consistently indicate that Americans who self-identify as conservatives outnumber Americans who self-identify as liberals by a roughly 2-1 margin (see Gallup’s most recent poll on this question here, for example), how can this be?  After digging into the polls internals, I believe I found at least part of the answer.  Conservatives have a significantly higher unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party than liberals do of the Democrat Party.  Indeed only 21% of liberals view Democrats unfavorably. However, the picture is substantially different for conservatives with regard to their opinion of the Republican Party.

The poll breaks up conservatives into two groups…perhaps because there are so many more conservatives than liberals.  Who knows.  Anyway, 38% of those who identify as “somewhat conservative” have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party while 30% of those who identify as “very conservative” have an unfavorable opinion of the GOP.  Thus, if you combine the two, roughly 1 in 3 conservatives disapprove of Republicans while only 1 in 5 liberals disapprove of the Democrat Party.  Combine these numbers with the fact that conservatives make up twice as much of the electorate as liberals (41% vs. 21%) and the 40% approval rating for Republicans in the ABC News-WaPo poll makes sense.

The question, then, is this: Why is there so little enthusiasm for the Republican Party by conservatives?  Jim Geraghty at the National Review believes it’s due to the fact that the Republican House has had few, if any, concrete accomplishments since taking control in January:

A strategist told me recently that of all demographic groups, Republicans are currently the least satisfied – because in their minds, they worked their tails off in 2010 to elect conservative Tea Party Republicans to Congress, and yet they see so little change in Washington as a result.

I’m sure there’s something to that, but I’d give conservatives more credit than that.  After all, how much can a Republican-controlled House accomplish when dealing with a Democrat-controlled Senate led by Harry Reid and a White House occupied by the most left-wing ideologue in the nation’s history.  The most they can do is stop Obama’s agenda, but actually reversing it is not in the cards given the present power structure in Washington.  To be sure, it would be helpful if the House would take a more aggressive stance against Obama’s recent attempts to pass legislation by executive and regulatory fiat but, again, they can’t do anything to, for example, repeal ObamaCare on their own.

I think a more significant amount of conservative antipathy toward the Republican Party can be explained by the Republican Party itself, which is fundamentally more interested in preserving the status quo than pursuing a conservative agenda. Indeed the Republican Establishment holds conservatism in general, and conservatives in particular, in contempt.  This has been well-documented in the past via too many posts to count at C4P.  I will, however, point to two recent developments to buttress my point.  About three weeks ago, Matt Bai published an enormous piece in the New York Times in which he quoted many Republican Establishment figures who had no problem going on the record to openly express contempt for conservatives.  The general sense one got from reading Bai’s piece was that Washington Republicans were outraged that conservatives would deign to take over “their party”. Here’s just one example from Republican consultant John Feehery:

 “The thing I get a kick out of is these Tea Party folks calling me a RINO,” John Feehery, a lobbyist who was once a senior House aide, recently told me. “No, guys, I’ve been a Republican all along. You go off into your own little world and then come back and say it’s your party. This ain’t your party.”

Right.  Is this kind of do*chebaggery from Feehery, who is indeed a RINO, supposed to inspire conservatives to approve of and/or send money to his Republican Party?  I think not.  How about you?  Incidentally Feehery is the moron who called Governor Palin a “distraction” and a “soap opera”, among other things, in 2009. I digress.  The second factor which explains lukewarm approval of Republicans by conservatives is the Republican Establishment’s inexplicable, nay suicidal, obsession with foisting Mitt Romney on conservatives as the Republican nominee.

Thanks to the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda, liberalism is in headlong decline and there hasn’t been a better time in the past 32 years to put an actual conservative on the ballot, and yet the Republican powers that be are doing all they can to give us Mandate Mitt, who’s no more a conservative than Arlen Specter (whom the Republican Establishment backed against Pat Toomey in 2004).  Most of the conservatives I talk to react to the prospect of a Romney nomination with a mixture of disgust and horror, and virtually none will vote for him.

Conservatives are smart people.  They can see with their own eyes the contempt the Republican Establishment has for them.  The inevitable result is that an increasing number of them are eschewing the Republican label in favor of the Conservative label. If a third party ever does successfully take root, I suspect these people will form its vanguard, and John Feehery may well get his wish.  He and they can have their precious party. I sure as hell don’t want to be a part of it.


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