Compromise IS a dirty word

"Compromise" stinks. Not as a concept. But as a word.

"Voters do not respond well to it, nor do they side with a candidate who is defined by it," according to a memo by Democratic pollster Jef Pollock regarding a new nationwide poll conducted by his firm, Global Strategy Group.

Asked whether they preferred a candidate who "stands up for what he or she believes" or one who "compromises to get things done," 50 percent choose the former option.

Image courtesy of Global Strategy Group
Image courtesy of Global Strategy Group

While the seven-point gap isn't massive, Pollock notes that "its significance is underscored by the fact that the candidate standing up for beliefs wins the contest among every demographic group regardless of gender, age or region."

The conclusion from that data point, however, should not be that people prefer inaction to action, according to the memo. Instead, what should be concluded is that the word "compromise" -- or "consensus" -- amounts to capitulation in many peoples' minds.

Consider this follow-up question in which people were asked to choose between a candidate who "finds middle ground" and one who works to "reach consensus." The "find middle ground" option won a majority of support. The margin was even wider when respondents were asked to choose between a candidate working to "find a middle ground" and one "open to new ideas" -- with more than six in 10 choosing the latter concept.

Image courtesy of Global Strategy Group
Image courtesy of Global Strategy Group

"Voters clearly want leaders who listen and work together but reaching consensus somewhere in the middle ground between right and left is not good enough," reads the memo. "They want candidates with new ideas that go beyond the stale and stalled partisan agendas of both sides."

Now, a piece of that conclusion is patently obvious. People like new, fresh ideas -- in their politicians and in every other aspect of their lives. New ideas are inherently more appealing than the ones we are familiar with already -- whether or not they are better ideas.

But, that point aside, the polling data make a compelling case that "compromise" is a political loser as the White House and Congress begin (again, again) to start talks about the possibility of a grand bargain around the budget deadline and debt ceiling.

Image courtesy of GSG
Image courtesy of GSG

"Compromise" is dead. Long live "common sense solutions."

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
Show Comments
Most Read Politics



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Next Story
Sean Sullivan · September 4, 2013