Voters See Democrats As More Extreme Than Republicans
In a sign that the Democratic Party’s talking points against the GOP and the Tea Party movement are not resonating with the public, a new poll shows that voters are more likely to view the Democratic Party as extremist than the Republican Party:
Likely voters in battleground districts see extremists as having a more dominant influence over the Democratic Party than they do over the GOP.
This result comes from The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll, which found that 44 percent of likely voters say the Democratic Party is more dominated by its extreme elements, whereas 37 percent say it’s the Republican Party that is more dominated by extremists.
The polling firm Penn, Schoen and Berland conducted the survey, contacting 4,047 likely voters by phone between Oct. 2 and Oct. 7. The margin of error for this sample is 1.5 percent.
More than one in every five Democrats (22 percent) in The Hill’s survey said their party was more dominated than the GOP by extreme views. The equivalent figure among Republicans is 11 percent.
Results for independent voters reflected the larger sample. Forty-three percent of likely independent voters said the Democratic Party is more dominated by its extreme elements, compared to 37 percent who thought the GOP had fallen under the sway of extreme views.
The figures by party do come with one caveat: Because the voter sampling size is smaller, the margin of error by party is 4.5 percent.
This comes despite months of rhetoric from the White House on down hammering away at the idea that Republicans were nominating candidates who were out of step with the mainstream. Instead, this poll seems to be saying that it’s the Democratic Party that is perceived as being out of step:
“All the press coverage has been about how these Tea Party candidates are fringe ideologues, and there have been high-profile examples of them proving the point,” he added. “Yet, still at this moment, you have independents saying, ‘I think the Democrats are a little more extreme than the Republicans.’ ”
O’Donnell’s past denunciation of masturbation and the admission that she “dabbled into witchcraft” have dominated media coverage of her campaign.
At a July fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), President Obama called out Angle as extreme for wanting to phase out and privatize Social Security and Medicare and eliminate federal investment in education.
But polling data from congressional districts in Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington state, West Virginia and Wisconsin show that Democratic leaders are having trouble convincing voters that the GOP is more extreme.
Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman from Minnesota and longtime observer of the national political scene, said he was surprised by the data.
“I thought the publicity around the Tea Party phenomenon would have given a different result,” he said.
“It is a reflection that the faces of leadership of the Democrats in government are seen as very liberal faces: Reid, [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi [Calif.] and Obama,” he said. “The leading faces of the Republican Party aren’t that well-known.”
Democratic Party strategists have tried to change that dynamic, working to raise the profile of House Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio), who would be in line to replace Pelosi as Speaker in the event of a GOP victory in the House.
But that effort has shown limited success.
If nothing else, this would seem to indicate that voter disdain with the incumbent party has extended so far as to apparently ignore their spin about the opposition. It’s also, of course, a reflection of the fact that the United States is, at heart, a center-right country and that the Obama Administration’s biggest miscalculation has been the degree it has tried to move the nation to the left at the same time that the economy continues to languish. Granted, Republicans would probably be suffering a similar fate in November if they were in power right now, but the extent to which the turn against the Democratic Party represents a backlash for ideological over-reaching cannot be discounted.
It is nonetheless remarkable that, notwithstanding the plethora of odd or at least unconventional candidates that the GOP has nominated this year, that it’s the Democratic Party that’s deemed by voters as being more extreme. That doesn’t bode well for their fortunes on Election Day.