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Republican Brand Still Damaged, Little Hope Of Repair Coming Soon

republicans-elephant-flag-shadow

Notwithstanding their clear victories in the 2010 midterm elections at both the Federal and State level, Republicans have seen their party fall out of grace over the past two years. Most obviously, of course, this can be seen in the 2012 election results, where Republicans lost the Presidential election, failed to take control of the Senate, and lost seats in the House. More broadly, though, poll after poll has shown that the pubic has rejected Republican policy positions on issues ranging from taxes and spending, to foreign policy, to same-sex marriage. Now, we have more evidence that the GOP has a serious public image problem that, if not dealt with soon, will post serious problems with the GOP in election years to come. First up, there’s a new survey from Pew showing that, while voters see the GOP as principled, they also consider the party as being out of step with the country:

At a time when the Republican Party’s image is at a historic low, 62% of the public says the GOP is out of touch with the American people, 56% think it is not open to change and 52% say the party is too extreme. Opinions about the Democratic Party are mixed, but the party is viewed more positively than the GOP in every dimension tested except one. Somewhat more say the Republican Party than the Democratic Party has strong principles (63% vs. 57%). The national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Feb. 13-18 among 1,504 adults, comes at a time when Republican leaders are debating the party’s future in the wake of Barack Obama’s reelection. The Republican Party’s image has been hit hard over the past decade. In January, just 33% said they viewed the party favorably, among the lowest marks of the last 20 years. The GOP’s favorable rating has not been above 50% since shortly after George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004. (…) Republicans are more critical of their party than Democrats are of theirs on most issues. For example, 36% of Republicans say the GOP is out of touch with the American people. Just 23% of Democrats say their party is out of touch. And while 30% of Republicans say their party is not open to change, just 10% of Democrats make the same criticism of their party. However, Republicans overwhelmingly credit their party for having strong principles; 85% say the GOP has strong principles while 13% say it does not. And 80% of Republicans say their party is looking out for the country’s long-term future. The GOP also gets high marks from independents and Democrats for having strong principles. Fully 62% of independents say the Republican Party has strong principles, the most positive measure for any party trait tested. Even about half of Democrats (52%) say the Republican Party has strong principles. Partisan views about whether the Republican Party is too extreme are mirror images: 78% of Republicans say the GOP is not too extreme, while 19% say it is; 78% of Democrats view the Republican Party as too extreme while 19% disagree.

The numbers in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll are about the same:

While Obama has seen his poll numbers drop – albeit within the survey’s margin of error – his political standing remains significantly stronger than Republicans’. Only 29 percent of respondents say they agree “with most” of what Republicans in Congress have proposed (versus 45 percent for Obama and 40 percent for congressional Democrats). An identical 29 percent have a favorable view of the Republican Party (compared with 49 percent for Obama and 41 percent for the Democratic Party). And the public believes the GOP is more interested in partisanship than Obama is: 48 percent say Obama is pursuing a path on unifying the country in a bipartisan way, while 43 percent say he’s taking a partisan approach that doesn’t unify the country. By comparison, 64 percent say Republicans are taking a partisan approach, versus 22 percent who say it’s focused on unity. What’s more, the polls shows the Democratic Party beats the Republican Party on almost every issue – looking out for middle class (by 22 points), Medicare (by 18 points), health care (16 points), reducing gun violence (15 points), Social Security (14 points), immigration (7 points) and even taxes (3 points) and the economy (2 points). The only issues where the GOP holds the advantage in the survey are reducing the federal deficit (by 6 points), controlling government spending (16 points) and ensuring a strong national defense (26 points).

Numbers like this explain quite well why the GOP consistently seems to be losing public relations battles with the President regardless of what the issue gripping the nation happens to be. When near-majorities of the the public have a negative view of your party, and less than one-third of the public has a positive view, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to gather them to your side in a political battle. There are vast numbers of voters out there in America who are, for the most part, not ideological. They tend not to vote for candidates because of specific political principles, but because of what happens to be going on in the country at the time. The economy, obviously, is the most prominent issue on voters minds today, and it has been for quite some time, but in the past issues like foreign policy have also played a large role in voters minds. What this means, though, is that there are a lot of voters out there that are potentially persuadable by one party or the others. That’s one of the reasons Ronald Reagan was able to win two landslides in a row, because he was able to reach out beyond the narrow confines of the Republican Party of the 1980s and get support from Independents and even Democrats fed up with the state of the country. It’s also the reason why political parties tend not to spend very much time in the political wilderness. The post Great Depression GOP was back in the White House by 1952, and the post-Vietnam/post-Carter Democratic Party was back by 1992. Similarly, the GOP could come back from it’s current problems. Indeed, it probably will. But, it’s not going to happen so long as the party keeps posting numbers like this and continuing to alienate itself from the American public.

The one thing these polls make clear, and which Republicans still refuse to recognize, is the extent to which the GOP still has not recovered from the Bush years. As the Pew poll notes, the favorable numbers for the party have not been above 50% since Bush let office four years ago. They didn’t even approach those levels in 2010 as the party was heading for its historic victories at the Federal and State levels. Meanwhile, Republicans continue to fail to recognize that they have not fully dealt with the legacy of George W. Bush, whether it concerns either domestic or foreign policy issues. Indeed, the leaders of the GOP in the House and the Senate today are the same people who were rubber stamping Bush’s actions for eight years from 2001-2009. It’s no wonder that the American people continue to associate the GOP with George W. Bush because, in the end, the party really hasn’t changed in either substance or style in the four years since he left to go home to Texas.

The GOP’s final problem, of course, involves the Tea Party, which seems to have now become just another name for the base of the Republican Party. Because of the influence that this movement has on intra-party politics, Republicans are unable to engage in even sensible discussions with the opposition party about fixing the nation’s fiscal problems because of the threat that they will be challenged in a party primary and attacked as a RINO. In just the last two years, they’ve managed to claim the scalps of people like Bob Bennett and Richard Lugar, both of whom, in a not to far gone era would have been considered quite conservative. The result is gridlock as the GOP uses negotiations with the Democrats to pander to the Tea Party rather than propose things that have a realistic chance of passing Congress, and that once again leads the public to feel even more negative about the GOP.

So, the Republican Party finds itself in a bind. The forces that control it at the moment are the very ones that are causing it to become more unpopular with the public as a whole. At some point, something must change, but it seems like it’s going to take a lot more electoral setbacks for the GOP finally get some sense knocked into it.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    Even about half of Democrats (52%) say the Republican Party has strong principles. Partisan views about whether the Republican Party is too extreme are mirror images: 78% of Republicans say the GOP is not too extreme, while 19% say it is; 78% of Democrats view the Republican Party as too extreme while 19% disagree.

    Yup, all us Dems agree. They do have strong principles. Stupid. But strong.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 37 Thumb down 1

  2. steve s says:

    I’ve been wondering for years now how the GOP was going to reform, and I have made almost no progress. Admit climate change is happening? Can’t, because Al Gore sucks. Immigration reform? Can’t because AMNESTY ARGLE BARGLE!!!!!111 Support the gays? Homoseshual Agenda 21!!!!!!11111

    …and so on and so forth. They simply can’t change on any big issue or the teatards will primary them. Right now I just see them losing nationally for years ahead. The only way I see them winning is by fucking things up so bad (sequester, full faith and credit, austerity etc etc) that low-information voters blame Obama/Other Future Dem President.

    Which is possible. Plenty of low-info people think Carter was a bad president, just because the oil shocks tanked the global economy shortly before and again halfway through his term. On policy, Carter was actually pretty good, appointing Volcker for instance.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 1

  3. swbarnes2 says:

    More broadly, though, poll after poll has shown that the pubic has rejected Republican policy positions on issues ranging from taxes and spending, to foreign policy, to same-sex marriage

    Well, yes, but I don’t see why you of all people care. Are you going to claim that those policies drove you away from voting for Republicans for federal, or state offices? Your pal Gary Johnson, Republican for all those years, subscribed to most of those same policies when you voted for him, didn’t he?

    Just answer a simple question: when voting for state reps and senators and congressional reps, were you mostly voting for the candidates likely to support gay marriage, or were you mostly voting for the candidate likely to oppose it? I suspect you mostly voted for guys like Regency University grad Bob McDonnell.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  4. al-Ameda says:

    Look, from about 1968 until Bill Clinton was elected in 1992 the Democratic Party was – from a presidential election standpoint – lost in the desert. There were many reasons – the culture wars, the Cold War, Vietnam, etc.

    During that period the Democratic Party still managed to win congressional elections, but the White House was out of reach. From the 1968 election to the 1988 election, in 6 elections the GOP won 5 times, only Jimmy Carter in 1976 won and it took a scandal of historical proportion (Watergate) to gift Democrats with that election.

    Republicans are wandering now, largely for 2 reasons: (1) GW Bush’s two-terms which included one costly and completely unnecessary war in Iraq and a financial crash of historical proportion, and (2) all things must pass, they run their course. Unfortunately, the Republican Party is not going away.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  5. Tsar Nicholas says:

    It’s tough to overcome politics by pure racial identity. If blacks for example are going to vote 90-10 or more to keep themselves in poverty and blighted neighborhoods that’s not exactly good cause over which liberal whites should celebrate, is it?

    Of course only on the Internet can you see a lengthy post concerning the GOP’s problems with Zombieland which doesn’t address two giant neon flaming elephants in the room: The media and the education systems.

    How many elections would Democrats have won over the past 40-plus years if ABC, NBC, CBS, NPR, Time and Newsweek, CNN, CNBC and MSNBC, and virtually every major circulation newspaper, were exactly like Fox News and the Washington Times? And what would the Democrats’ brand name be like if from K-12 through grad school kids received non-stop negative commentary about Democrats?

    Let’s not be as naive as Ivory Snow.

    Ultimately the GOP is hosed, granted, and for obvious reasons that’ll cause people on the Internet and on college and university campuses to cheer, preen and mug for the cameras, nearly rolling on the ground with glee. But the brutal reality is that leftism as policy is and always has been an unmitigated disaster which not only destroys economies but also destroys the very fabric of nations. PIIGS and the rest of the EU didn’t happen by accident. We’ve become Europe with higher crime rates and worse schooling. Bad combinations.

    Or to put it another way:

    1.7 million = long-term unemployed, Jan. 2003
    1.4 million = long-term unemployed, Jan. 2008
    4.7 million = long-term unemployed, Jan. 2013

    15.9% = unemployment rate, ages 18-19, Jan. 2003
    15.9% = unemployment rate, ages 18-19, Jan. 2008
    20.8% = unemployment rate, ages 18-19, Jan. 2013

    9.3% = unemployment rate, ages 20-24, Jan. 2003
    8.7% = unemployment rate, ages 20-24, Jan. 2008
    14.2% = unemployment rate, ages 20-24, Jan. 2013

    10.3% = unemployment rate for blacks, Jan. 2003
    9.2% = unemployment rate for blacks, Jan. 2008
    13.8% = unemployment rate for blacks, Jan. 2013

    7.8% = unemployment rate for Hispanics, Jan. 2003
    6.3% = unemployment rate for Hispanics, Jan. 2008
    9.7% = unemployment rate for Hispanics, Jan. 2013

    Regressive dystopia.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 40

  6. anjin-san says:

    @ steve s

    We should have listend to Carter on energy dependence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  7. superdestroyer says:

    Who cares? I guess writing about irrelevant Republicans is easier in writing a post about thew special election to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. The fact that Robin Kelly now has infinitely more influence on policy, government, or politics in the U.S. than Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, or the Tea Party is totally lost on most wonks and wannabes.

    I guess ignoring the future is now a skill that is required for most pundits.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

  8. An Interested Party says:

    It’s tough to overcome politics by pure racial identity. If blacks for example are going to vote 90-10 or more to keep themselves in poverty and blighted neighborhoods that’s not exactly good cause over which liberal whites should celebrate, is it?

    Ohhhhh, so you’re saying that black people are too stupid to vote for what is in their best interests…hmm, Republicans should adopt that message…that’ll really help them to pick up more black votes…

    Of course only on the Internet can you see a lengthy post concerning the GOP’s problems with Zombieland which doesn’t address two giant neon flaming elephants in the room: The media and the education systems.

    You really should walk around the area where you live wearing a sandwich board which has the message “I’M A VICTIM!!! I’M A VICTIM!!!” as that is what you do here on a daily basis…

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  9. Moosebreath says:

    “At some point, something must change, but it seems like it’s going to take a lot more electoral setbacks for the GOP finally get some sense knocked into it.”

    Seeing people like Doug supporting the other major party might help knock some sense into the GOP, but we all know that can never happen. Instead, we are treated to yet another reciting of the litany of Republican woes. It’s better written than Tsar Nicholas or superdestroyer’s screeds, but ultimately just as predictable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  10. john personna says:

    Tsar Nicholas and superdestroyer step up, to explain their party.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  11. SC_Birdflyte says:

    As for the Tea Party: a Facebook friend recently forwarded a post from the Tea Party in Texas showing GWB with a chainsaw in his hand, clearing brush. It bore the caption: “Wouldn’t you rather have a President who isn’t afraid of work.” I almost snorted ice water out of my nose at that one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: This is what happens when you drink the tea.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @SC_Birdflyte:

    I almost snorted ice water out of my nose at that one.

    Lucky for you you weren’t drinking soda.

    as to,

    “Wouldn’t you rather have a President who isn’t afraid of work.”

    actually, yes I would. Which is why it is so hilarious that they use a picture of Bush who took 1020 vacation days during his 2 terms. Obama is on pace for 262 vacation days for his 8 yrs. Of course, it is a really stupid argument either way because as Nancy Reagan said:

    “Presidents don’t get vacations — they just get a change of scenery. The job goes with you.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  14. becca says:

    @gVOR08: As Adlai Stevenson once said, it is easy to fight for principle, but much harder to live by it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. Barry says:

    @steve s: “I’ve been wondering for years now how the GOP was going to reform, and I have made almost no progress. – See more at: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/republican-brand-still-damaged-little-hope-of-repair-coming-soon/#sthash.bCn4EHhw.dpuf

    Voter suppression.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. Barry says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: “1.4 million = long-term unemployed, Jan. 2008″

    G-d D-mn, you’re a slick wh*reson, aren’t you? :)

    You didn’t even bother to use Jan 2009, but went for the Bigger Lie.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Barry:

    You didn’t even bother to use Jan 2009, but went for the Bigger Lie.

    It is what Tsar does. Besides he can easily prove that all those unemployed people in 1/09 were only laid off because of the coming Armageddon that would be the inevitable election of “The One” ™

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Also, this to the What Could Possibly Go Wrong department:

    “An employee in a Texas school district on Wednesday was accidentally shot during a district-sanctioned handgun training class, the Tyler Morning Telegraph reported.

    The class was spearheaded by the Van Independent School District in Van, Texas after the local school board there voted in January to arm certain school employees on campus. “

    Just wait until it’s a student, then they will argue that it was the fault of the student for not getting out of the way of the wayward bullet or that he should have armed him/herself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. bk says:

    @superdestroyer:

    The fact that Robin Kelly now has infinitely more influence on policy, government, or politics in the U.S. than Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, or the Tea Party

    As it should be. Since she won an election, and the others did not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  20. C. Clavin says:

    Tsar lists a bunch of stats that show just how badly the Republicans f’ed this nation during their last effort at governing. Thanks for telling us what we already know.

    When CPAC is snubbing the most popular Republican Governor in recent history…it’s clear the Republican party has not yet hit bottom…much less turned the corner towards fixing itself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. C. Clavin says:

    If Tsar was a stock I would short it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. john personna says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Anyone who cherry-picks bad news is an imbecile. The long term charts tell the story. Never trust anyone with a single measure, who doesn’t offer a reasonable backstory. On that:

    Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims decrease to 344,000

    The key there is not the “one week news,” it is the context offered in the long term chart. We took a huge hit in 2008, turned it around in 2009, and have been improving ever since.

    Now, if you have reasonable suggestions on how to speed the recovery, take a shot. But you know, try to avoid strategies in play from say 2002 until the 2008 blow-up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. J-Dub says:

    At least the GOP still loves children! (as long as they have a bullet in their head)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  24. Rick Almeida says:

    The GOP’s final problem, of course, involves the Tea Party, which seems to have now become just another name for the base of the Republican Party.

    That’s all it ever was, Doug.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @superdestroyer:

    The fact that Robin Kelly now has infinitely more influence on policy, government, or politics in the U.S. than Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh,

    I can’t wait for Robin Kelly to show up on talk radio and threaten the RINO figurehead of the day with absolute destruction and for that RINO to come crawling to her on hands and knees begging forgiveness.

    Riiiiiiiiiight…..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. superdestroyer says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Considering that all of the rightwing media is saying that comprehensive immigration reform is a stupid idea and will destroy conservative politics in the U.S., most of the Republicans in the Senate seem intent on throwing the middle class white Republicans under the bus to pander to Hispanics. Even though every bit of data shows that it is a horrible idea, the Repubican Senators keep going forward with the idea. That should be enough to show that talk radio is powerless.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0