I’ve noted here before that the GOP economic agenda reflects to an overwhelming degree the preoccupations of Tea Party Republican voters, rather than those of non Tea Party Republican voters. On issues like the minimum wage and, more broadly, inequality, polls have shown non-Tea Party Republicans are much more in line with the rest of the public than the GOP’s party-wide positions suggest.
The new CBS News/New York Times poll drives this home once again. It’s a really striking split.
The poll finds that as a group, Republicans are isolated on a number of key questions. Majorities of Americans, including independents and Dems, hold the following positions: They think the distribution of wealth should be more even; they favor raising the minimum wage; they think there are good things in the health law and that it should be kept and improved, rather than repealed.
On all those issues, Republicans are on the other side of public opinion. But it turns out that is driven by Tea Party Republicans far more than non-Tea Party ones. Here’s a rundown, helpfully provided by the CBS polling unit:
* On the distribution of wealth, an overwhelmingly majority of Tea Party Republicans, 73 percent, think it’s fair as is, with only 23 percent saying it needs to be more even. By contrast, non-Tea Party Republicans are split on this, 46-44.
* On raising the minimum wage, a large majority of Tea Party Republicans opposes raising it, 70-27. By contrast, non-Tea Party Republicans favor raising it by 53-45 (as does the rest of the public).
* On Obamacare, an overwhelming majority of Tea Party Republicans, 88 percent, want the law repealed. By contrast, non-Tea Party Republicans are more closely divided; 57 percent want repeal, but a surprisingly large bloc, 40 percent, says there are good things in the law and changes are needed (again, that’s non-Tea Party Republicans.)
* On taxes and spending, a majority of Tea Party Republicans, 52 percent, wants the deficit reduced by only spending cuts. By contrast, a majority of non-Tea Party Republicans, 58-35, want the deficit reduced by a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes (as does the rest of the public).
Other polls have shown this Tea Party-versus-non-Tea-Party Republican split with striking clarity on issues like unemployment insurance, on whether government should act to reduce inequality, and on whether helping poor people saps their work ethic.
This sort of thing could matter in red state Senate races. Vulnerable Dems are planning to run hard on pocketbook issues like the minimum wage and the preservation entitlements from spending cuts. Meanwhile they will hit GOP opponents over repeal while arguing (with varying degrees of directness) for keeping and fixing Obamacare, and for the virtues of expanding health coverage to those who need it. Perhaps some non-Tea Party Republican voters will be reachable on these issues, giving Dems some desperately needed crossover appeal (though whether agreement with the Dem stance will be enough to overcome partisanship and other factors is of course an open question).
More broadly, what these numbers again suggest is that GOP party-wide economic stances and priorities overwhelmingly reflects the Tea Party economic worldview — what you might call the Hammock Theory of Poverty. This may continue to impair the GOP’s ability to embrace a more affirmative role for government in combating poverty and increasing mobility. Don’t take my word for it. This is something even conservative reformers have complained about.