Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 30, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

"BLINK"ING THE CANDIDATES....This is quite a fascinating little chart from the Pew Research Center. I feel like I ought to have something deep and meaningful to say about it, but I really don't. I do, however, have a few garden variety observations.

First: Hillary Clinton is viewed as more liberal than Barack Obama? Both Republicans and Democrats agree about this, and, needless to say, both Republicans and Democrats are very, very wrong on this score. Apparently the power of perception is hard to break down.

Second: For fans of the Downs Median Voter Theorem, it's worth noting that all of the major Republican candidates are viewed as closer to the middle than any of the major Democratic candidates. (This depends only slightly on how you define "middle." Pew uses a scale of 1 to 6, so the mathematical middle is 3.5. However, the self-identified middle is 3.4, as is the self-identified position of independents.) This is potentially bad news for Democrats.

Third: Over at Ezra's place, Neil points out that John Edwards, who is arguably the most progressive candidate, is viewed as the most centrist. This is potentially good news for both progressives and for John Edwards, since it means the candidate most likely to pursue a progressive agenda once he's in office is also the candidate who's most electable.

Other stuff: Democrats and Republicans rate the Republican candidates almost identically, but they differ quite strongly in their ratings of the Democratic candidates. I'm not quite sure what this means.

Finally, the average Republican rates herself farther from the middle than the average Democrat. The average Democrat, therefore, is ideologically fairly close to all the major Dem candidates, while the average Republican is quite distant from theirs. Again, I'm not quite sure how this will play out.

At any rate, it's good stuff for political junky types, and the full poll has some other, equally interesting findings. Judging from the questions about who's the strongest leader, who's the most inspiring, who's the most electable, etc., for example, the primaries shouldn't even be close. It'll be Clinton vs. Giuliani in a walk. We'll see.

Kevin Drum 3:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (65)

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... since it means the candidate most likely to pursue a progressive agenda once he's in office is also the most electable candidate.

I suppose this is accurate if you accept the the premise that most centrist means most electable.

Did it?
Does it?
And will it prove so?

Posted by: ROTFLMLiberalAO on April 30, 2007 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

However, the self-identified middle is 3.4, as is the self-identified position of independents.) This is potentially bad news for Democrats.

I agree with you Kevin. This is a pretty good news for the Republicans. All 3 major Republicans candidates are closer to the independent voters than the 3 major Democratic candidates. Even George W Bush is closer to the independents than Clinton. And Bush is virtually tied to Obama and Gore in how close his positions match those of independents. Given the fact that there are more conservatives than liberals in this country, I think this poll is good reason to believe Republicans will win by a huge margin in the 2008 elections no matter what candidate they pick. Even Gingrich looks like he could easily defeat the Democrats.

Posted by: Al on April 30, 2007 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

It's an artifact of the last two decades worth of the Republican/conservative dominance that the term 'liberal' is now ambiguous in its denotation, signifying a set of principles and policies but also bearing a strong social stigma. This happened starting in the Reagan years and even Clinton ran away from the term, confirming its negative status. Even today, 'liberals' are more likely to call themselves 'progressives'. It's how I often self-identify.

From this fact follows most of the odd features of the survey. All people want to distance themselves from the term 'liberal'; hence the mean is shifted closer to the conservatives. And since 'liberal' is more of a swear-word than an actual indicator of philosophy, there is more confusion over who counts as 'liberal' and who doesn't.

If one were to substitute the word 'progressive' for 'liberal' in the survey questions, I bet the confusing, disconcerting results would have come out different.

Posted by: lampwick on April 30, 2007 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately it took segregationist Governor Wallace to reveal the truth that "there's not a dime's worth of difference between" Republicans and Democrats. The Democrats willingly went along with the War in Iraq, suspension of Habeas Corpus, detaining protesters, banning books like "America Deceived' from Amazon, stealing private lands (Kelo decision), warrant-less wiretapping and refusing to investigate 9/11 properly. They are both guilty of treason. Support indy media.
Last link (before Google Books bends to gov't Will and drops the title):
America Deceived (book)

Posted by: Mike F on April 30, 2007 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

There needs to be at least one more axis on this chart, for incompetence, deception, and/or stupidity. As a group, the Republicans would probably be pretty far out on any of those.

Posted by: Nemo on April 30, 2007 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

I'm struck by Bill Clinton being placed to the left of the entire field by Democrats, and to the right only of Hillary by Republicans. We've got more information about his policies than anyone else on the chart, even W, based on two completed terms as president, and I'd class him as moderately centrist -- say, 3.8. Yet more evidence that politics are a Rorschach test, or (more likely) that I'm missing something everyone else sees.

Posted by: Shelby on April 30, 2007 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Not to mention that this is about perceived positions. If one used actual positions, as in 'for / against X', I would say that those markers on the line would shift right by at least .5

Posted by: linnen on April 30, 2007 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Edwards is thought of as more centrist because he's a white male.

Posted by: pbg on April 30, 2007 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Edwards Southern accent probably drives voters' perceptions of him several ticks to the right. As far as Obama being perceived as less liberal than Clinton, this most likely reflects strong public preconceptions of Clinton dating from 1992 that her energetic, patient positioning have not been able to erase -- as well, of course, as the fact that Obama is still an unknown quantity to most people.

Posted by: Zathras on April 30, 2007 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

I see this as more evidence of how misinformed the American electorate is, more than anything. Bill Clinton the most liberal of this bunch? I don't think so. The knuckle-draggers at FreeRepublic have always considered Clinton to be a liberal, when he is most definitely a moderate.

What it also shows is how far to the right the political spectrum has been shifted in the past 20 years. What would have been called right-wing radicals 25 years ago are now called centrists. Total h*rseshit.

Move on - this sort of thing is discouraging, since it ultimately shows how gullible the average American is.

Where would Kucinich fall?

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on April 30, 2007 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

To get through the Republican primary, Guiliani and Romney will have to take positions and act in a manner that moves them into Gingrichland.

Posted by: Chuck on April 30, 2007 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Is that whistling sound Al whistling through the graveyard? Or is it the wind zipping through his ears, having nothing between them to stop it?

Posted by: DJ on April 30, 2007 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

Bill Clinton on the far left??

Jesus fucking Christ, he was the best Republican president since Calvin Coolidge!!

Posted by: angryspittle on April 30, 2007 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

Considering that polls have consistently rated ending the war and dealing effectively with the health coverage crisis as the two most important issues facing the country, THIS poll will become totally meaningless when (or should I say if) the candidates' positions become clearer to voters as the election approaches.

Posted by: fyreflye on April 30, 2007 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

A. sure it shows how uninformed the average voter is.

B. it also shows how uninformed the average Democrat is (putting Bill that far left?)

Posted by: Nathan on April 30, 2007 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

The latest Rassmussen poll shows some tightening, as do the election hypothetical matchups.
It's a good thing that California now has an early primary.
That chart is way out of whack. Bill Clinton was a DLC Democrat and always triangulating. Time changes perceptions and Republican extremism has moved the spectrum to the right.

.... suspension of Habeas Corpus, detaining protesters, banning books .... Mike F at 4:40 PM

You forget, Joe Lieberman is not a Democrat.

Posted by: Mike on April 30, 2007 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

If this poll concludes that 'It'll be Clinton vs. Giuliani in a walk', then I will confidently predict that neither Hillary nor Rudy receives their party's nomination.

And since predictions this far out are meaningless, I'll go ahead and pick Edwards (folksy populist! And besides, the electorate can't resist a charismatic Southerner!) versus Gingrich (only because I don't believe the GOP base would EVER nominate Giuliani, McCain or Romney, and at this point I don't see any other Republicans with Gingrich's name recognition).

With Edwards winning the Presidency, of course, because by election day 2008, Republican candidates will be only slightly more popular than H5N1 --- and because Gingrich has an adultery problem or two.

Posted by: David Bailey on April 30, 2007 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Gingrich v Edwards, 2008 !

Posted by: cleek on April 30, 2007 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

I have to agree with the above commentators that the whole field of political debate has been moved to the left by Reagan/Bush I/Bush II.

If you were to describe the domestic policies of Nixon without mentioning his name I bet most people would classify him as a flaming liberal.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on April 30, 2007 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

On the other hand (and in contrast to the "centrist is good" idea), the highly popular Bill Clinton is seen as the most liberal, and the highly unpopular George W Bush is seen as the most conservative.

Therefore, I conclude that to be very liberal is to be very popular, and to be very conservative is to be very unpopular. :-)

Posted by: Robert Earle on April 30, 2007 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Somebody should do this kind of analysis, but cross reference it to where people get their news from.

I suspect certain media outlets do a more accurate job of portraying the actual Left-Right position of the candidates than others.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on April 30, 2007 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

This just proves that people are idiots. And that years of mental abuse by the so-called liberal media does take a toll.

Posted by: craigie on April 30, 2007 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

I'd have a lot more trust in this poll if they'd rotated the liberal/conservative question so that liberal wasn't always 6 and conservative wasn't always 1. (I checked, they didn't rotate.)

A lot of psychology can come in to play when you're dealing with numbers, especially numbers around zero. Zero acts as a hard barrier (even though it's not included in the poll), and respondents will want to avoid placing any candidate too close it. Thus conservative candidates get a slight push away from the extreme, but there is no compensating factor for the liberal side of the scale. The respondent can easily rate Hillary Clinton a 5 without any subconscious pressure telling them that this is "extreme."

Looking at the methodology, I think it is also easy to explain why Bill Clinton was viewed as so much more liberal than the other Democrats. The first question asked was how do you rate [rotated] Bill Clinton and George W. Bush? Thus the respondent is likely to pick two numbers on the extremes, and use these as measuring posts. Every subsequent candidate will be end up somewhere in the middle. If they'd rotated Bill and GWB with the other candidates, I think there'd be a more reasonable basis for comparison, but as it is, this poll's methodology sucks. So it's probably best to ignore it. (I know, I know, political punditry isn't about analysis and reality, it's about bloviating about whatever shiny new penny somebody sticks in front of you, but at least I can hope.)


Posted by: alex on April 30, 2007 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

Sometimes you let the truth slip out Kevin.

This shows how close middle America is to the Republicans. It shows how dangerous far to the left Bill, Hillary and Al Gore and Barack is.

2008 will be a bloodbath, especially after the *.* pull the rug out from under Bush.

Posted by: egbert on April 30, 2007 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats have a theme of embracing change and community as the country seeks recovery from the last six calamitous years of failure, cronyism, incompetence and endlessly evolving tales of corruption. These are psychiatric recovery principles as well.
We have Bush fatigue. McCain reminds us of that fatigue.
Senator Clinton has been the clear leader yet people keep saying Barack Obama is the kind of person who inspires the citizenry--he could grow to mythical status in the next 6 months, or plummet.
If Chuck Hagel gets into the mix, watch the wildness for Republican candidates. His entry into the race may just ruin it for the others--imagine the debates alone! I can't wait.
The beleaguered Republicans, the unpopular president...emailgate, the ongoing congressional oversight...wheeeeeeeeeedogggies....
Is it not a reflection of total, willful self-delusion and outright denial for the president to day he "will not withdraw (from Iraq) even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me."
A candidate standing with him will lose.
It's funny--last October David Gergen wrote that self-identified conservatives out-numbered self-identified liberals by 2 to 1, and conservative voices often smothered liberals on the airwaves.
This is clearly changing. That tide has reversed.

Posted by: consider wisely always on April 30, 2007 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, egbert.

Put your money where your mouth is. Go over to www.intrade.com and you will find that a Democratic win of the presidency in 2008 last traded at 56.8, while the Republican win last traded at 42.8. So if you are right that Republicans will win big in 2008, you can make a killing by buying the Republican share now valued at less than a 50% chance of winning and selling short on the Democrat win now valued at greater than a 50% chance. Or do you not believe in markets?
RiMac

Posted by: RiMac on April 30, 2007 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

"Hillary Clinton is viewed as more liberal than Barack Obama"

Cuz she's a woman? Lesbian, what? Apparently that overwhelms Obama's blackness as a signifier of his liberality. Which might be good for future black candidates, actually.

And Edwards is centrist cuz he's a white guy with a "drawl".

Oh well.

Posted by: luci on April 30, 2007 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Al & Egbert are right--it will be the Republicans in a landslide in 08. Everyone keep reminding your R friends of this every time you seem them. Dems have no chance! It'll be a blowout! Stay focused on who is winning American Idol instead. So thanks guys for your input. No need to say anything further since this is a done deal. See you in Nov 08!

Posted by: none on April 30, 2007 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

This just proves that people are idiots. And that years of mental abuse by the so-called liberal media does take a toll. Posted by: craigie on April 30, 2007 at 6:20 PM

This just proves that people are idiots. And that years of mental abuse by the so-called conservative media does take a toll.

Speaking of conservative media, in Limbaugh's scurry to be the fattest ugliest rat to abandon the Bush ship, he said it was because Bush wasn't conservative enough. Here we have Bush at 2.5 and no one lower on the scale....?

Maybe Cheney is down in the onesies where Rush feels comfortable, or maybe there are negative numbers on the ultra-conservative side, down there in the -5's where Dr. Dobson and kind live.

Posted by: Zit on April 30, 2007 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

What does this prove, other than 'most people are dumb'?

Posted by: absent observer on April 30, 2007 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

There needs to be at least one more axis on this chart, for incompetence, deception, and/or stupidity. As a group, the Republicans would probably be pretty far out on any of those.

before he became a largely successful mayor of New York City, Giuliani put white-collar criminals in jail. On the scale of demonstrated competence, I think he ranks the highest.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on April 30, 2007 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

Posted by: Flied Marshal Donald von Rumsfeld on April 30, 2007 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, I don't think any objective observer would dispute Giuliani's competence per se, it's his temperament that is seriously questionable. I say that as a NY'er. Bloomberg has shown that it's possible to retain Giuliani's policies (and success) without being mean and polarizing.

Posted by: Nathan on April 30, 2007 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

Absent Observer:

First, this chart does not prove that people are dumb. Some are, but most are ignorant rather than dumb. They are simply not paying attention because they are busy and are uninterested in politics. This makes them selfish for not being better citizens, but not dumb.

Second, this chart does prove things other than the fact that people are ignorant. It shows who is favored and disfavored by the general image the ignorant but voting public holds of them. I remember being in a heated debate with other Democrats after the 2004 loss in which I suggested a strategy in which Democrats exploit the image of Southerners as centrists by favoring Southerners who had progressive values. I was accused of capitulation, which I think is also implied in luci saying "Edwards is centrist cuz he's a white guy with a 'drawl.'" It is unfair that Hillary Clinton is tagged with a more liberal image than she deserves. Nonetheless, the image is not irrelevant to the question of whether she can win, which is not irrelevant to the question of whether she is the best candidate.

This is not the usual argument supporting the conservative Democrat in order to win the general election. It is instead that one should support candidates more progressive than H. Clinton -- Edwards and Obama -- who have the advantage of being misperceived as more centrist. By identifying these facts, this chart is very illuminating.

--RiMac

Posted by: RiMac on April 30, 2007 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

Giuliani was just on the teevee saying his wife would be an expert on health care since she was a pharmaceutical rep--I think I actually heard that. (But I had the teevee, ,and progressive radio on at the time, while speaking on the phone...)

Posted by: consider wisely always on April 30, 2007 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

I always love when the difference between public perception and reality is pointed out.

It really is fascinating how the Republicans' side is very accurate (Gingrich should go a bit farther than Bush) while the Dems' placement is wildly incorrect.

Posted by: Kyle on April 30, 2007 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

egbert, thanks for the laugh. You're undoubtedly, completely and unequivocally a first-rate fool.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 30, 2007 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

MathewRMarler & Nathan:

As I understand it, Giuliani made the decision to put the NYCity terrorism command center in the World Trade Center AFTER the first attack in 1993. That seems pretty stupid. He discounted the health threats of working around ground zero after 9/11, which appears to have been unwise. And he used his influence to get the Bush administration to hire his buddy Bernard Kerik without the usual vetting, though that turned out to be a political blunder. Then there's the fact that he claims to have caused the drop in crime in New York City, but lots of social science evidence (including some from "Freakonomics" author Steve Levitt) says that is not at all true. I think the image of Giuliani as brilliant manager is as ill-informed as many of the opinions reflected in this chart.
--RiMac

Posted by: RiMac on April 30, 2007 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

Did anyone else watch Larry Johnson all but call Sen. Boren a lying prick on the NewsHour?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 30, 2007 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats and Republicans rate the Republican candidates almost identically, but they differ quite strongly in their ratings of the Democratic candidates. I'm not quite sure what this means.

C'mon Kevin. You don't get this? Think wingnut media! The wackos have their base frothing that all the Dems are falling off the left of the spectrum, while the Dems see the Reps the same way that their own constituents do. Dems think (a bit?). Reps believe the slop they're fed.

Posted by: wake up! on April 30, 2007 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

alex at 6:21pm nails it

Posted by: Disputo on April 30, 2007 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, I don't think any objective observer would dispute Giuliani's competence per se, it's his temperament that is seriously questionable.

I'm sure John O'Neill would dispute it, if he weren't dead.

Posted by: Disputo on April 30, 2007 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

Oh. My. God.

All the news that happened this weekend, and thus far Hardball's Chris Matthews:

* Has covered Press Secretary Tony Snow's return to work in the White House for the first 20 minutes;

* Then discussed the GOP presidential primary race with Newsweek's Howard Fineman for the next 20;

* Is now about to close it our by determining who the best Republican presidential candidate to claim the holier-than-thou mantle of St. Ronald of the Reaganites with Ron Reagan and Tony Blamnkley of the Washington Times;

** Now says it's gotta be Rudy Giuliani because (paraphrasing), "He's got charisma up the wazoo, so who cares about Bernie Kerik and the Mob?"; and

* Excuse me, but is now going to wrap up the hour by talking about the Don Imus affair with sensitive African-American guy Russell Simmons, and further asking him why rappers don't get censored for using the same language Imus did.

Well, golly gee willikers, but this has been an inightful and informative hour.

Considering that Matthews once worked for the legendary Democratic Speaker Tip O'Niell, I figure that he must have to take some pretty heavy medication in order to even sleep at night -- which perhaps explains all the drool.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 30, 2007 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

One reason Edwards may be considered the most centrist Candidate is because as a Senator and running for President in 2004 he WAS a centrist. Post-2004 he began moving to the left.

Obama is good at talking a moderate game, although his voting record reflects a liberal worldview. This is one of his electoral strengths.

Much of Hillary Clinton's liberal mystique comes from her attempt to reform health care and her denouncement of the "vast, right-wing conspiracy."
Of course, in reality she is now slightly to the right of Obama and Edwards.

People are just stupid to rate Bill Clinton where they did.


Posted by: Ogre Mage on April 30, 2007 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

RiMac,

uh...I expected those canards...of course they simply work to prove Giuliani's baseline managerial competence (the problem with him is that there's more than that to being a President)....since those points are so lame (even when true they're small).
put it this way: could you really have seen Katrina happening under Giuliani?
(the crime point is especially wrong -- Leavitt claimed no such thing. although NY's crime reduction initially coincided with the late 90's crime reduction across the U.S....it went considerably deeper in NY then other urban centers and continued longer (it's still continuing in NY despite the upswing in the rest of the country). there doesn't seem to be much dispute here that aggressive policing is a factor (not the only one of course).

(I'm surprised you didn't also try to personally blame Giuliani for the police/fire radio snafus on 9/11...that's another one that people try which makes them look lame)

Posted by: Nathan on April 30, 2007 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

Blue Girl: "Did anyone else watch Larry Johnson all but call Sen. Boren a lying prick on the NewsHour?"

Nope. PBS' NewHour is not on the air in Honolulu until 6:30pm HST, (11:30pm in Kansas City). But thanks for the heads-up -- I'm going out to dinner with my mother tonight, so I'll record it.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 30, 2007 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder where on the spectrum a candidate from the Communist Party of the United States would fall? They don’t get a lot of air time on FoxNews.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on April 30, 2007 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

For anyone who believes that Hillary is only second to Bill in being liberal, hate to disappoint you but take a gander at this (Mark Penn is supposedly Hillary's top political advisor):

"In their $5 million Georgetown mansion, Penn and his wife, Nancy Jacobson, a former staff member for Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) who is now a fundraiser with the Clinton campaign, run something of a salon for like-minded friends. They recently threw a book party for Jeffrey Goldberg, the New Yorker writer, to celebrate the release of his memoir on Israel. On another occasion, they hosted David Brooks, the conservative New York Times columnist, for a dinner party and political discussion.

Penn has deep roots in the national security wing of the Democratic Party, along with other centrist Democrats -- some of them Jewish and pro-Israel, like Penn -- who saw the merits of invading Iraq before the war began."

Lots more disgusting stuff here:

Kornblut, WP

Posted by: nepeta on April 30, 2007 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

I'm supporting Edwards and expect him to be the Democratic nominee.

I don't know who the Republicans will nominate, but I find it hard to believe that Giuliani will get away with, e.g., telling right-to-life to "get over" the abortion issue. See (if you can stand the site): http://www.LifeNews.com/nat3038.html

Posted by: Larry Kestenbaum on April 30, 2007 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

Nathan:

Be careful what you call a canard. From Steve Levitt's article, "Why Crime Fell" in the Journal of Economic Perspectives (2004):

"Since New York City is held up as the clear innovator in policing practices, and since it enjoyed the greatest crime declines of any large city, an analysis of that city’s experience represents a logical starting point. In my opinion, there are reasons for skepticism regarding the claim that New York City’s policing strategy is the key to its decline in crime. ... [M]y reading of the limited data that are available leads me to the conclusion that the impact of policing strategies on New York City crime are exaggerated, and that the impact on national crime is likely to be minor."

See also Bernard Harcourt, "Illusion of Order: The False Promise of Broken-Windows Policing" (Harvard Univ. Press 2001).

I totally agree that Giuliani would never have screwed up Katrina like Bush did, but that doesn't distinguish him from any serious candidate in either party. Bush set the bar too low there.

As for the other points, your labeling them "lame" certainly is a powerful argument, but I would love to hear even more.

--RiMac

Posted by: RiMac on April 30, 2007 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

Some of ya'll who think Guiliani can't get the nomination don't know conservatives too well. They'll be quite happy to overlook the fact he's a heathen for the right conservative platform. Think not? Consider a man named Reagan. A movie star who seldom cracked a Bible. Guiliani and McCain have a much better chance than Gingrich.

Gingrich fails simply because he's utterly charmless. He's gotta be the least charming man in politics, and Americans vote for charming. And, yes, that means, unfortunately, that much of America finds (well, found) George Bush charming.

Posted by: Robert S. on April 30, 2007 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

My reading of the chart is that the people who have been around the longest generally are on the extremes because there is more history and opinion hysteria as a result of polarization. The relative newcomers are in the center. If you throw away Bush/Gingrich and both Clintons then it seems to make sense.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on May 1, 2007 at 12:32 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't it ironic that Bill Clinton is considered most liberal...

To a Californian Liberal... He's a middle of the road Democrat. Gore would be more Liberal, Hillary far more conservative.

It frustrates me that people see it shifted so far over when from here ... Well, it's shifted so far over.

Posted by: Crissa on May 1, 2007 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

This is why we should choose Edwards.

Since Americans typically agree with progressive positions on issues, but reject the label "liberal," why would we choose a conservative Democrat who's been tagged as a "liberal" (Clinton) when we can have a liberal Democrat who's been tagged as a "centrist"?

It seems to be a no-brainer to me.

Posted by: Nancy Irving on May 1, 2007 at 3:13 AM | PERMALINK

As alex at 6:21 PM already pointed out, this poll's methodology is rubbish on the 1-6 conservative/liberal scale.

I also looked at the topline questionnaire and methodology. Alex's criticism is valid. The first rotated question asks how do you rate George. W. Bush/Bill Clinton on the 1-6 conservative/liberal scale? After that, the question about rating 2008 candidates is randomized--not fair to the candidates in the least in terms of anything meaningful because George and Bill have set the benchmarks for comparison.

When you factor how much more popular Bill is than Dubya from other polls--and that Bill is ranked 4th as the one of the greatest U.S. presidents compared to Bush II at 8th--one could conclude that the candidates nearer to Bill appear to be more favored.

How do you rate yourself was always asked last in the survey. If the last question had been asked first, we would see more how people identify with the candidates in relationship to themselves and that's the ticket--not how candidates compare to George's and Bill's conservative/liberal rating.

So nothing of value to see in this portion of the survey.

If Pew had added Jimmy Carter, Poppy Bush, and Reagan in the mix, would Bill Clinton still rate at 5? I daresay the results would have been very different but still imperfect due to the subconscious "zero" factor as alex explained at 6:21 PM. If the scale had been reversed, with 1-6 for conservative to liberal, you would get yet another result.

Second, conservative and liberal have become useless terms. Bush is a conservative? Bah! Pew ought to have asked which candidate reflects your politics on a scale of 1-10 and even that wouldn't be perfect because what the hell does the electorate know about the candidates at this stage? If you examined the questionnaire, there are lots of people who answered, Never Heard of, Don't Know, or Refused. For Edwards: 24%. For Obama: 31%. Al Gore: 13%. Bill Clinton and George Bush both got 9%. Crikey! People were confused by this part of the survey.


BGRS: Did anyone else watch Larry Johnson all but call Sen. Boren a lying prick on the NewsHour?

No, but I read the NewsHour transcript. Wingnuts like Boren and our own troll Mike K spread misinformation first penned by pseudo-reporter Jeff Gannon as well as Richard Schmitt of the Weekly Standard that Larry Johnson wrote terrorism was not a problem pre-9/11 in his NYTimes op/ed of July 2001. And Larry set the record straight about that lie on the NewsHour. Good for Larry.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on May 1, 2007 at 4:51 AM | PERMALINK


Bill Clinton Leftist ??? You have got to be kidding me ?!? Part of what the poll shows is that people are just not paying attention.

However, if you look at Democratic hopefuls, I think there is something interesting to say. Respondents get it exactly backwards if one compares perceived ideology vs stated policy proposals. An explanation of this pattern is that Clinton and Edwards are racing to the median Democratic primary voter. Clinton knows she is perceived as too far left to win the general so she is running as a conservative. Edwards knows he is perceived to be a White man from the South, so he is running as a raging red. Each is trying to people to perceive them to bet the median hopeful who will balance progressiveness and electability AKA Barack Obama. I'd say both need extreme hair cuts.

Clearly such a pattern in a huge sample of 3 observations can easily be due to chance. I am assuming hopefuls have had private polls which give similar patterns for months now.

The point is that maybe campaign proposals are opposite of perceptions not because the public is dumber than a flipped coin, but because the candidates are all campaigning against type for strategic reasons.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on May 1, 2007 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

If there is a point separating each of the democrats on the line, why aren't they spaced out evenly?

Posted by: Perry on May 1, 2007 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Third: Over at Ezra's place, Neil points out that John Edwards, who is arguably the most progressive candidate, is viewed as the most centrist. This is potentially good news for both progressives and for John Edwards, since it means the candidate most likely to pursue a progressive agenda once he's in office is also the candidate who's most electable.

It's the hairdo. Something good had to come out of it.

Posted by: shortstop on May 1, 2007 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

When I see the big three Republican candidates averaging closer to the center, I'm not seeing them as more competitive and congenial to independent voters. I'm seeing Republican primary voters saying "why are they foisting these liberals on us."

Posted by: Brittain33 on May 1, 2007 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Never mind, I clicked the link (thanks, Al) and saw that Independents are saying the same thing.

Posted by: Brittain33 on May 1, 2007 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK
Second: For fans of the Downs Median Voter Theorem, it's worth noting that all of the major Republican candidates are viewed as closer to the middle than any of the major Democratic candidates. (This depends only slightly on how you define "middle." Pew uses a scale of 1 to 6, so the mathematical middle is 3.5. However, the self-identified middle is 3.4, as is the self-identified position of independents.) This is potentially bad news for Democrats.

Actually, this has nothing to do with the Median Voter Theorem, because that Theorem has nothing to do with perceived proximity to perceived "middle".

The Median Voter Theorem does not say, as you seem to imply, that the candidate that is most perceived as close to the "middle" is most likely to win.

Of course, Median Voter Theorem is one of those perfect knowledge, ideal conditions models that, quite arguably, has little to do with reality, at least when it comes to public elections.

Third: Over at Ezra's place, Neil points out that John Edwards, who is arguably the most progressive candidate, is viewed as the most centrist. This is potentially good news for both progressives and for John Edwards, since it means the candidate most likely to pursue a progressive agenda once he's in office is also the candidate who's most electable.

"Most centrist" is not the same as "most electable".

Other stuff: Democrats and Republicans rate the Republican candidates almost identically, but they differ quite strongly in their ratings of the Democratic candidates. I'm not quite sure what this means.

It means that Republicans and Democrats have different information sources, and that the Republicans campaign messages come through pretty much unfiltered in both, while Democrats campaign messages are distorted in the information sources favored by Republicans.

Finally, the average Republican rates herself farther from the middle than the average Democrat. The average Democrat, therefore, is ideologically fairly close to all the major Dem candidates, while the average Republican is quite distant from theirs. Again, I'm not quite sure how this will play out.

Its probably a symptom of Republicans who see themselves as moderates becoming independents, leaving a core of people who see themselves as strong conservatives in the Republican Party.

It also might be an indication that people that try to sell themselves to the Republican primary electorate are going to have farther to cut back in the general election than people who try to sell themselves to the Democratic primary electorate in order to secure a general election win, and that a Republican campaigning to the center will be more vulnerable to a third-party challenge from the Right than a Democrat doing so.

But, while a tenable interpretation, that's not a particularly certain one.

Posted by: cmdicely on May 1, 2007 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

These numbers actually aren't a surprise, and not necessarily bad news for Dems. After all, if Bill Clinton were running again, he'd win in a landslide, and he's perceived as more liberal than anyone running now. Keep in mind, most Republicans are conservative, and they view virtually all Dems as liberal, and that skews the numbers. Dems are more diverse in hoe they view Repubs.

Also, there's no obvious conservative running, or at least someone Repub voters see as conservative. That's why they're less hapy with teir choices than we Dems are.

Posted by: Paula W. on May 1, 2007 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Here's another way of putting it: Our top three candidates are perceived as being to the right of Bill Clinton, who won two terms and is widely seen by the public as a successful president. Is this supposed to be a problem?

Posted by: Paula W. on May 1, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

You say that Edwards is arguably the most progressive, and I suppose that may be true of his rhetoric (specifically the haves/have nots), but I remember reading a blog a few months ago that compared the votes of Hillary and Edwards. While their votes were often the same, whenever their votes differed, however,it was consistently Edwards voting less progressively.

Posted by: catherineD on May 1, 2007 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Al: "And Bush is virtually tied to Obama and Gore..."

Don't you mean "with", brainiac?

Talking about grasping at straw polls. By the way, how's basic training going? Ready for Iraq?

Posted by: Kenji on May 2, 2007 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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