Voters See Democrats As More Extreme Than Republicans

More bad news for Democrats as a new poll shows that voters are more likely to consider them 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.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Pete says:

    Oh boy, can’t wait to see the reaction from all the Tea Party haters on this site. I predict some very erudite rebuttals which will be “pissing in the wind.”

  2. Tano says:

    Of course, that is “likely voters” – which means quite the biased sample given that they have filtered out more Democratic voters.

    That the rabid, enthusiastic base of the GOP thinks anyone to their left, including many of their own distinguished office holders, is extreme – this is…

  3. Pete says:

    I could add that I’m not surprised. After all, the dems are made up of unions and their thugs, envirowhackos who burn and break things, race baiting low lifes like Sharpton and Jackson and many out of the mainstream people who thrive on their “victimhood.”

  4. Pete says:

    Tano’s the first to answer the call. Good job.

  5. Steve Plunk says:

    None of this surprises me. Once fully in power Democrats couldn’t help but show what they are really about rather than what they say during a campaign and that’s not what most Americans see as normal or mainstream.

  6. says:

    Sorry, not buying it. One obscure poll does not make a narrative and their are plenty others showing Americans distrust Republicans more than Democrats.

    But keep looking for those scraps that let you keep your blinders on.

  7. ratufa says:

    This poll result isn’t surprising at all. For all the talk and media play about Republicans being extremists, there has been at least as much about Obama and Democratic leaders being extremists, especially since the talk about Democrats has been going on since well before the Tea Party movement existed in any visible way. Plus, the Democrats have actual legislative “accomplishments” (note the quotes) which can be attacked, and the Republicans have spent their time saying “no”.

    It will be interesting to see how these results hold up when/if Republicans take control of one or both houses of Congress and voters start expecting more from them.

  8. Pete says:, you may be right, but it is more likely you refuse to see the truth.

  9. john personna says:

    Well, to the extent that the Tea Party represents a “split” of extremists from the Republicans, and the Democrats are still “united” … sure.

  10. Ken says:

    Yeah, remember when the Dems started bring firearms to rally’s? And when that Democratic pastor in Florida set up an event to burn Quran’s? Lets not forget Scott Roeder – the guy who killed George Tiller. And of course Hal Turner – the white supremacist who suggested the best way to win this election was to assassinate the opposition. Wait, aren’t they all Republicans? Well nevermind those don’t count then.

  11. sam says:

    Wonder what this means (from Pew Research) for the subject of this post (and for the coming election):

    Cell Phones and Election Polls: An Update

    The latest estimates of telephone coverage by the National Center for Health Statistics found that a quarter of U.S. households have only a cell phone and cannot be reached by a landline telephone. Cell-only adults are demographically and politically different from those who live in landline households; as a result, election polls that rely only on landline samples may be biased. Although some survey organizations now include cell phones in their samples, many — including virtually all of the automated polls — do not include interviews with people on their cell phones. (For more on the impact of the growing cell-only population on survey research, see “Assessing the Cell Phone Challenge,” May 20, 2010).

    It is possible to estimate the size of this potential bias. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press conducts surveys with samples of landline and cell phones, which allow for comparisons of findings from combined landline and cell interviews with those only from landline interviews. Data from Pew Research Center polling this year suggest that the bias is as large, and potentially even larger, than it was in 2008 (See “Calling Cell Phones in ’08 Pre-Election Polls,” Dec. 18, 2008).

  12. Herb says:

    Doug, do you ever get tired of writing the phrase “bad news for Democrats?” I’m not talking about the posts about polls and various things that might signal doom for our lefty friends, which are otherwise interesting and/or informative. I’m talking about those specific words, “bad news for Democrats.” Sometimes you’ll use the variation “not good news for Democrats” but it’s almost always variations on the “news for Democrats” theme. English is a vivid language with thousands upon thousands of words. Can we try a few different ones?

  13. Grewgills says:

    It’s also, of course, a reflection of the fact that the United States is, at heart, a center-right country

    On what rubric is that based? I see this often and it only ever seems to be a vague assertion without any evidence in support as though it is some sort of received wisdom.

  14. TG Chicago says:

    Herb, did you mean to post that on this thread? I did a page search for “news for Democrats” and I got 4 hits — all of which are in your post.

  15. Herb says:

    “I did a page search for “news for Democrats” and I got 4 hits — all of which are in your post.”

    Hmm…a testament to the limits of search algorithms? I mean, a ten second search probably won’t tell you as much as months of accumulated daily reading.

    At any rate, I was giving Doug a hard time about a quirk in his writing. I should have better signaled that tongue was planted firmly in cheek.