February 26, 2013

The center-right research and polling outfit Resurgent Republic is out with new polling and focus group data on under-40 voters.


Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell at the 2012 CPAC confab-Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

From their four focus groups of self-identified moderates, the pollsters concluded:

While the President continues to be personally popular, few of these participants are committed supporters of the President. Many are concerned about his inability to get things done.

While most have not tuned into the details of the on-going budget debate, the deficit is a top concern to this group of voters. Most by far agree that spending is the problem and most oppose higher taxes because they do not address the root problem.

Participants, women in particular, are concerned about the economic squeeze on the middle class. Health care and education costs are up sharply; their ability to pay is not.

The groups pointed to significant disagreement with both parties. Their main negative perception of Democrats is reckless spending. Their main negative perceptions of Republicans were an inability to relate to the middle class and intolerance of differences of opinion on social issues.

With an electorate that is becoming less white, center-right candidates need to make inroads among all minority groups. In recent elections Hispanics and Asians have the sharpest decline in support for Republicans while simultaneously increasing their turnout.” It is the same story with young voters — they are increasingly Democratic and have turned out strongly in recent elections.

Women voters present a mixed picture for Republicans. On one hand Mitt Romney won white women nationally — though like other voters they went for Obama in the swing states — and white married women overwhelmingly agree with the sentiment that government is doing too much. The bad news is that Republicans fare poorly with unmarried women, who favored Democrats by 36 points and whose numbers are increasing.

How does this fit together in the real world? Two examples should help explain the dilemma.

First, CPAC has barred the conservative gay group GOProud from attending. They also did not invite the most popular governor in America, Gov. Chris Christie. This is the purist temptation, to talk only to those in perfect agreement while projecting rigidity and intolerance to anyone outside the conclave.

Second, another hugely popular GOP governor, Virginia’s Bob McDonnell, just passed an historic transportation plan that accomplishes what no other governor in decades has been able to do so. But because there is a sales tax hike (although the retail gas tax goes away) national conservatives are up in arms. One of Jim DeMint’s minions at Heritage declared himself embarrassed that he ever helped elect McDonnell. Would a Democrat would have been better? Would he’d rather not have the budget savings and school choice provisions? When national conservative activists oppose precisely what voters including many Republicans overwhelmingly approve of (i.e. problem solving) they lose non-ideological voters.

Voters can be persuaded by effective, likable candidates. Unfortunately, Republicans can be their own worst enemies. There is a reason they are losing elections.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.