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Assessing the GOP brand

Topics: Approval Ratings , Favorable Ratings , GOP , House of Representatives , midterm , party brand , Republicans

How weak is the Republican brand right now? This issue came up yesterday when a Media Matters criticized The Hill for failing to mention the GOP's poor polling numbers in a story on the 2010 elections. Similarly, I recently suggested that that the damaged Republican brand might limit the number of seats that the party picks up. But is the party really worse off than previous opposition parties at this point in the election cycle?

As a first cut at the question, I pulled all the relevant polling on approval of the party in Congresss and party favorability from the Roper iPoll database for the periods leading up to the four most recent midterms (1994, 1998, 2002, and 2006). In both cases, the results are consistent, but I'll focus on the favorability questions since Pew and CBS asked comparable questions about party favorables in each cycle.*

The overall finding is simple -- the GOP's standing relative to the Democrats on both measures is worse than any opposition party in the sample. For instance, the Pew data show that the Republicans are currently viewed more negatively than any minority party in the previous four midterms in terms of both net favorables and the difference in net favorables between parties:**

Pewfaves

The CBS results (not shown) are even more dramatic. In June, when the question was most recently asked, Republican net favorables were -30% and Democratic net favorables were 25%, which swamps the comparable results from the previous cycles.

In short, there's no question that the GOP party brand is in worse shape than any opposition party in recent memory. The question, however, is whether this difference in party valence will (a) persist through next November and (b) translate into fewer GOP House seats at the polls, especially once we account for the generic Congressional ballot, which should (in principle) take much of this difference into account (see Alan Abramowitz's model, for instance). Those questions remain to be addressed.

* Also, the approval question seems to be less closely related to electoral outcomes -- for instance, disapproval of Republicans in Congress was high in September 1994.

** I chose the survey closest to the current point in the electoral cycle, though the exact date varied. Net favorables are defined as the percentage of Americans who have a favorable view of the party minus the percentage who have an unfavorable view.

(Cross-posted to brendan-nyhan.com)

 

Comments
conspiracy:

Excellent work Brendan. This highlights clearly what I've been saying. People might be unhappy with Dems but why on earth would they turn to people they dislike even more?

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gparks:

Replubs are increasingly repugnet in their veiws, outlook and statements about America and Americans. They fail to realize thae this IS a BIG country and everyone IS proud to be American regardless of the label they wear or given! Intolerence is just not acceptable in 2009.

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charity:

I couldn't agree more. As disgusted as I am regarding the dems. Never in this lifetime would I ever vote for the party of NO! Their conduct is shameless.

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SystematicError:

Do these polls measure intensity of approval / disapproval? I can imagine a scenario in which the simple approve-disapprove value does not correlate w/ the polls, but intensity weighted values do.

An electorate that is mildly approving/disapproving might turn out to vote at 50% while a rabid one turns out at 60%. Highly intense feelings could translate into more donations, knocking on doors, etc...

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jasperjava.wordpress.com:

The Democrats may have been disappointing, but the Republicans have been disgusting.

If the economy begins to thaw (as it seems to be doing), and a decent healthcare reform package passes, Democrats can even hope for some gains beyond their good showing in 2008.

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RKT:

Why do I suspect this news will serve to make Republican leaders and politics even MORE loathsome?

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openid.aol.com/lenherb419:

It is important that we who are concerned with the direction that our great country is going, are vigilant as not to allow those who would resort to a doctrine of entitlement and in doing so would spread lies, division, and obstruction in order to destroy the very country that they are determine to take back from those who participated in a lawful and legal election process. Yes I too am some times very frustrated by the actions of some of the Democtrats but that does not mean that I would ever not vote, nor would I ever vote for the party of no, no, no.

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Midnight05:

They are a bunch of sick puppies at the moment and that's unfortunate because the Democrats need a healthy opposition, not just an oppositional one. The rise of the rural, half-educated and super-religious elements have crowded out the Republican intelligentsia. The losses of Buckley and now Safire are really painful.

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roland5m:

I do not know the quality of your polling technique but I do appreciate your explanation of it. Some Republicans I know are not crazy about Obama but they are angered by the politicized positions Republicans take that do not address the problems at hand. I have no idea how that would be reflected in the voting booth but their comments are consistent with your polling numbers.

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chriccha:

Someone should get fired for that!
The DEMOCRAT bar is Red and on the Right side.
The REPUBLICAN bar is Blue and on the Left side.
How convenient!

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Perhaps hate is finally going out of style. The Republicans have been very proud of their intolerance of Gays, Hispanics, other monorities, the poor. As a son of immigrant Italians, my people knew that the Dems welcomed us and championed our cause. In one generation my illiterate forebearers can proudly look upon their professional sons and daughters. Now in northern WI I pass this leagacy on to my Native American neighbors even helping them to knock on doors during the Obama campaign.

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SystematicError:

The Pew poll shows the GOP (DEM) at -5 (+10).
While the CBS poll (in june) had them at -30 (+25)? Is that correct?

If the two polls are truly comparable, then one could argue that the differential is shrinking: the GOP and Dem favorables and unfavorables are becoming equal. This might hearten Republicans.

Or maybe the favorables and unfavorables don't budge, and you can simply average the polls (-17.5 G0P, +17.5 Dems). This would hearten Democrats.

I suspect we will all read into these numbers what we want, but if numbers jump around so much can they be trusted?

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doxiedame:

G O P Gals with Obnoxious Personalities

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Charlie:

I wonder how much the liberal news media bias is hurting the GOP poll numbers. Almost every article I read in the mainstream media, with the one exception of Fox News, is negative and biased, against conservatives and Republicans.

Is it OK for liberals, democrats, etc., to lie now? Is that really part of the liberal philosophy? Too many poeple act as if the end justifies the means. Intellectual honesty would go a long way in making the debates honest and fair. Saying what you want to believe is not intellectually honest, and it doesn't make it true, either.

Should we elect people who say what we want to hear, or people who tell us the truth? How about this one: "we will pay for the health care reform by raising taxes on the wealthy". If that were true, why has it been forgotten now? We keep hearing that the Obama/Democratic plan will cost us too much money. If the government requires people to buy health insurance, who can't afford it on the free market, and will fine them if they don't buy it, is that helping them? Be honest: Either tell the truth, keep your promise, and make the wealthy pay for it, or stop trying to force the bill through against the will of the people who don't want it.

I think the Republicans are doing the best they can to represent the people who elected them, while they are faced with a liberal monopoly on the press, who are willing to write biased articles that unfairly portray them all as "mean-spirited, bigoted, etc., etc.", when we all know that's not true.

How would you like to be the daily target of a smear campaign that is run by almost every newspaper, magazine, and TV news organization?

When I read the anti-Republican comments on most blogs, many of them are about as mean-spirited as you can imagine. That attitude doesn't belong in either party or ideology.

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Charlie:

You can call Republicans names like the party of "no, no, no", but the truth is that the new Obama/Democratic left-wing government is the party of "yes, yes, yes" to every opportunity to spend our future tax money and put us in debt that the next generation can't possibly repay. We are already a bankrupt nation - owing more than we make and more than we can pay - and this new socialism is pushing us into the bankruptcy court as fast as possible.

And every American who is intelligent enough to understand math should be saying "NO" to that. Why are we criticizing the ones who are trying to save us from economic disaster?

While the press is blaming the rich and CEOs for the "economic meltdown" they are forgetting that the subprime lending disaster would not have happened in the first place if it were not for ACORN and the Democrats in Congress who kept pushing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to underwrite those subprime loans. Barack Obama was the favorite senator of Fannie Mae, who gave more money to his campaign than all other senators put together, because he was the strongest advocate of providing "affordable housing" for people who did not qualify for home mortgages. If any CEOs were the cause of the mortgage crisis, if was the heads of the mortgage industry, namely the CEOs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They were receiving huge bonuses for the volume of loans that were approved, knowing that one day many of the unqualified lenders would be likely to default, according to all the known rules of banking. It is failure of socialist politics, not corporate America.

The public has been lied to so much that they now believe the lies. This is a government of deception and corruption, that is determined to make us a socialist nation at any cost.

Guess what: the health care industry represents 20% of our economy. A plan that puts it under government control would advance the cause of socialism in America faster than anything else. That is their true agenda. That's why it's the president's number one priority.

We have a muslim-sympathizing socialist in the White House. How much worse can it get?

I hope you will open you eyes before it's too late and face the truth. Socialism is not a type of economic system, it's a type of government. And it eventually rules over the people with an iron fist. Do you want that?

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Megan Tahoma:

I absolutly agree with Charlie. They blame the Rebublicans for disagreeing or refusing to go through with certain subjects of the pulotical agenda for example, Obama's health care plan. In this case the Democrats supporting Obama spend every opprotunity finding ways to spend our tax money when there dying and starving people and decaying hbitats for animals that they could be spending time with. But instead they continue to put us more in debt for things that we will not be able afford. Of course they would know this if they spent allittle time paying attention to what Congress has just passed: a stimulus package. With this said, the supporttive democrates of Obama are blinded by their goal to promote Obama's socialy corrupted plan to see that the American people can not possibly afford Obama's 900 billion dollar plan. If this plan goes through American's will be sucked dry, will eventulay be drug back into the depths of reccession and ultimatly create another American Depression--this time with health bennifits that wont matter because we wont be able to afford the surgury for example a canerous mass, or a tumor in a leg. But don't worry our President Obama will not be on top of this matter beaucse he is too busy taking pictures and writting "just saying hi" post card letters to every wealthy person from his trip to the Grand Canyon!

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kemar:

I wonder how much the liberal news media bias is hurting the GOP poll numbers.
Did it ever occur to you that the majority of Americans did not think very highly of the GOP? Look at the government website for some data. When Bush Sr was President he ran the the deficit to -ve $400B. Clinton took it and gave Bush Jr +ve $128B. Bush Jr gave obama -ve $410B and Obama in just under a year is, so far, projected at -ve $407B. Go figure.

Is it OK for liberals, democrats, etc., to lie now?
You must either be blind and illiterate, or ignorant, stupid, arrogant, selfish, deaf and biased. Well I can at least eliminate two of those. You are not blind, neither are you illiterate. With all the blatant lies being spread by FOX news et al, and all the revelations coming about the evil criminals who ran this country into the ground, all the misinformation being spread by the Republicans, you have the nerve to come here talking about liberals lying!

Should we elect people who say what we want to hear, or people who tell us the truth? How about this one: "we will pay for the health care reform by raising taxes on the wealthy". If that were true, why has it been forgotten now? We keep hearing that the Obama/Democratic plan will cost us too much money. If the government requires people to buy health insurance, who can't afford it on the free market, and will fine them if they don't buy it, is that helping them? Be honest: Either tell the truth, keep your promise, and make the wealthy pay for it, or stop trying to force the bill through against the will of the people who don't want it.
DID YOU NOT HEAR THE PRESIDENT SAY: "I will veto any HR bill that adds a single penny to the deficit??

I think the Republicans are doing the best they can to represent the people who elected them
Never been more accurate. The few remaing ones, the ever fading minority do not have any intention of helping to fix and repair the mess they gave Obama. They were in power for 8 years. They are totally responsible for the system crash. Obama is trying to repair a badly damage system. Have you even seen a corupted computer system which constantly BSOD's? Extremely difficult to repair. But can be fixed by a a clean wipe and reinstall of the system. We do not have that luxury with the current economic system.

How would you like to be the daily target of a smear campaign that is run by almost every newspaper, magazine, and TV news organization? Again, do you not think something could be wrong with you, the Republicans and FoX? You know there are rare instances throughout history where the minority were correct. This is not one of them. But remember when the minority insisted that Bush was going to ruin this country and the economy taking us into the war of aggression? That Saddam was telling the truth and Bush was lying? Well they were right!

When I read the anti-Republican comments on most blogs, many of them are about as mean-spirited as you can imagine. That attitude doesn't belong in either party or ideology.
I read a comment from a blogger who was citing another person, a few weeks ago. It goes like this: Not all Republicans are morans, but all morans are Republicans. You certainly are a living proof of this statement.

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kemar:

I wYou can call Republicans names like the party of "no, no, no", but the truth is that the new Obama/Democratic left-wing government is the party of "yes, yes, yes" to every opportunity to spend our future tax money and put us in debt that the next generation can't possibly repay. We are already a bankrupt nation - owing more than we make and more than we can pay - and this new socialism is pushing us into the bankruptcy court as fast as possible.
Oh God!! We pay taxes the Government. They are elected to spend the money however they see fit, for our benefit. If we could have decided how our money was spent, then George Bush could not have gone to war, instead he would have to slend that money rebuilding the towers! It is not like "our tax dollars" was some money you are going to get handed to you. Some spend it prosecuting a sitting President for having an adulterous affair, starting two wars spending billions of our tax dollars, taking away our freedom of privacy, imprisoning and torturing hundreds of innocent people among a host of other atrocities. This President decides to sped it here in the USA to try and build up back that which the previous government destroyed. They should ahve spent that money rebuilding the Twin towers and our economy might very well have been booming!
And every American who is intelligent enough to understand math should be saying "NO" to that. Why are we criticizing the ones who are trying to save us from economic disaster? You! you!you! There is no further disaster. We were already in a disaterous situation. Or are you just coming out of a coma to see the current situation believeing that Obama created it?

While the press is blaming the rich and CEOs for the "economic meltdown" they are forgetting that the subprime lending disaster would not have happened in the first place if it were not for ACORN and the Democrats in Congress who kept pushing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to underwrite those subprime loans. Barack Obama was the favorite senator of Fannie Mae, who gave more money to his campaign than all other senators put together, because he was the strongest advocate of providing "affordable housing" for people who did not qualify for home mortgages. If any CEOs were the cause of the mortgage crisis, if was the heads of the mortgage industry, namely the CEOs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They were receiving huge bonuses for the volume of loans that were approved, knowing that one day many of the unqualified lenders would be likely to default, according to all the known rules of banking. It is failure of socialist politics, not corporate America.
George Bush was the President!!! He could have vetoed or passed critical reform to fix it. He did not do anything of to fix it. He had the pen!!!

The public has been lied to so much that they now believe the lies. This is a government of deception and corruption, that is determined to make us a socialist nation at any cost.
Why don't you do some researh and see what socialism is all about?

Guess what: the health care industry represents 20% of our economy. A plan that puts it under government control would advance the cause of socialism in America faster than anything else. That is their true agenda. That's why it's the president's number one priority.

We have a muslim-sympathizing socialist in the White House. How much worse can it get?
You.
I hope you will open you eyes before it's too late and face the truth. Socialism is not a type of economic system, it's a type of government. And it eventually rules over the people with an iron fist. Do you want that?
What has Capitalism under George Bush done for us???

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Charlie:

To Kemar:

One of us must have incorrect information. If Obama will veto any bill that increases the deficit then we all have nothing to worry about! He'll never allow the Democrats' bill to pass. But the last report in the liberal news said the Democrats' bill will cost $900 billion over the next 10 years. Somebody has to pay more taxes. I will believe Obama's pledge to only raise taxes on the rich after he does it. And what will congress do a few years from now? Lower taxes on the rich and move the tax burden to the middle class, as usual.

What has Capitalism under George Bush done for us? Well, George Bush wasn't Ronald Reagan, who restored everyone's confidence and pride in America, but neither was any other president in my lifetime. Capitalism is what provides REAL jobs, products, profits and a better lifestyle. Governmnet jobs don't product any products, except for the small percentage that is spent on roads and infrastructure. For every $1.00 the government collects in taxes, $.80 is spent on administrative bureaucracy. Only 1/5 of the money is used for anything useful. That's a huge drain on the economy.

If you think socialism is the answer, you're sadly misinformed. Every country in Eurpoe that has tried socialism has found that it weakens the economy and the spirit of the country. That's why Europe has been backing away from socialism for decades. So why are we racing towards it as the "cure" for all evils?

What has socialism done for health care so far? Consider the elderly and the disabled, who already have free health care. It's hard to find a doctor who will accept Medicare's low pay, so Medicare recipients care have few options, are treated like second-class citizens, and their health suffers. Admit it: Congress is not competent to manage health care, they've already proven it. That is a non-partisan statement.

How about Social Security? When it was first introduced, it was heralded as a retirement plan that would put your money into a fund that would provide for you when you retire. If the money that you pay into Social Security were invested for you, you would be a multi-millionaire at retirement. Why doesn't it work? Because Congress later converted Social Security into a TAX, not a retirement plan, so they could spend the money on their other social programs. There is no money in the Social Security "Trust Fund"! That's why your SS checks won't be enough money to buy groceries when you retire.

Big government is a false hope. Congress is too corrupt. It is not the kind of government that America was designed to be. It is not socialsim that made America great, it is capitalism. Capitalism means that you are free to work for a living and spend the money the way you choose. That gives people one little thing that socialism doesn't: motivation. Enlightened self-interest. Without it, society disintegrates into ignorance, drug and alcohol abuse, a dependent mentality, etc., just like you see in every government-paid housing project in America.

People only grow and improve when they take responsibility for themselves. Welfare programs don't do that. They create a dependent class, who think everything should be free, but don't want to work.

I'm not against health care reform, just the kind that puts Congress in control. There are a lot of ways we can make health care better and more affordable without making it another failed social program. That's what the Republicans have been saying all along.

Check out this website for the documented truth about the man you think so highly of: www.WhatsWrongWithBarackObama.com. It has links to videos, quotes from his own book, and other factual information. If most people knew who he really is and what he stands for, they wouldn't have voted for him.

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JMSTiger:

If the Republican brand is so toxic, how can the probable victories of GOP candidates for governor in New Jersey and Virginia be explained? Shouldn't Christie and McDonnell be trailing by 10%+ being that Obama easily won both states in 2008 and supposedly practically everyone loves Democrats now?

To the posters above, you need to consider history before writing off any political party or movement. There have been countless times in the last 80 years where either the Democratic or Republican parties were considered irrelevant or on the way to oblivion. The Democrats in '64, '76 and '92 looked dominant. In '66, '80 and '94, the Republicans made huge comebacks. The Republicans in 1980 and 2002 appeared to be dominant, only to suffer fairly bad defeats in '82 and '06. Politics goes in cycles. Lately, those cycles have become increasingly short. There is no such thing as a permanent governing majority party and there won't suddenly be one now, even with all the partisan vitriol of "Party of NO!" and "Party of Hate!", etc.

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conspiracy:

JMSTiger, of course there is no such thing as a permanent majority. The Republicans will come back at some point. The point of the data though is that until people actually start to like them again that won't be any time soon. And nobody is suggesting everyone loves Democrats. Indeed that was another point of the original post - people aren't happy with them but the Republican numbers are even worse.

And the cases of Virginia and New Jersey have little to do with the national environment. McDonnell is a strong candidate in a state which tends to vote in cycles and Corzine is an unpopular governor though I think he might end up still winning.

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Eileen Left:

G.O.P. = Greed Over People
Trusting a Republican on any issue means you either have too much money to worry about any issue or you are too ignorant to vote.

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donotcry:

I wouldn't comment on posts but I felt that I had to as your writing style is really good. You have broken down a difficult area so that it easy to understand. I think that you would enjoy reading what another good blogger has to say on the subject.
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