Is it the GOP's horrible reputation (in light of Bush, Katrina, Iraq, etc.) that is making voters not like them, or is it actually just their positions that are making them so unpopular? Josh at Next Right points to an interesting study, done for NPR by GOP pollster Glen Bolger and Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, that tries to answer that exact question. The poll asked 800 likely voters their opinions on various issues, first giving the positions in a vacuum, then attaching them to their respective parties. The results are pretty surprising: The Democratic position, even when not attached to any party, consistently beat the GOP position by 11 to 25 points. In other words, it's not the Republican "brand" that's the problem--it's their policies. Josh (who by "we" means Republicans) breaks down the results by issue:
Let’s start with the economy. When voters know what party each message comes from, we loose 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.”