Donald Trump threatened a third-party presidential run, Herman Cain and Israeli lawmaker Danny Danon stirred up the crowd and Jon Huntsman Jr. and Tim Pawlenty got polite receptions at the second annual Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington.
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In an election season driven by economic worries, Republican leaders are trying to keep Christian conservatives excited and involved by blurring the line between religious/social issues and low-tax crusades -- a divide that has helped shape past GOP primaries.
No one who seeks the Republican nomination for the presidency can hope to emerge victorious without the support of social conservatives, arguably the largest and most dynamic constituency in the GOP primaries.
They comprise a majority of voters in many early primaries, among them Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida. Moreover, coupled with tea party activists they turn out consistently and heavily on election days.
So it is no surprise that leaders like Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman who are seeking their party's nomination for president of the United States are speaking to grass-roots activists from every state in the Union who are looking for a candidate to support.
Read more here.
As the 2012 Republican presidential race begins to coalesce, the field is dividing between populists and managers.
The most prominent populists are former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. The leading manager is Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, although he could face competition from such current governors as Indiana's Mitch Daniels, Mississippi's Haley Barbour, and, conceivably, New Jersey's Chris Christie. Onetime House Speaker Newt Gingrich straddles both camps but leans toward the populist side. Outgoing Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a self-described "Sam's Club" Republican with an equable manner, also straddles the line but probably tilts toward the manager camp, as would Sen. John Thune of South Dakota if he ran. Conversely, if Texas Gov. Rick Perry reverses his decision and joins the race, he would enter as a full-throated populist.
The two groups disagree on some issues (trade, aid to banks), but the most important differences between them are cultural and stylistic, not ideological. The populists thunder; the managers reassure. The populists stress their social values; the managers tout their economic competence. The populists rage at the elite; the managers mingle easily with them.
To their supporters, the populists represent a cultural statement: Who they are is more important than what they will do. For the managers, that equation is reversed: Their biggest selling point is their agenda, not their identity.
These camps speak primarily to competing wings of the Republican coalition. The populists channel the edgy, defensive nationalism of a culturally conservative, economically aggrieved working-class white electorate that has moved steadily toward the GOP for decades and has stampeded in that direction under President Obama. The managers connect most easily with college-educated Republicans who tend to be somewhat more socially moderate, less viscerally hostile to government (if still dubious of it), and mainly intent on rejuvenating the economy. In early 2012 national polling, Romney consistently leads the field among college-educated Republicans; Palin runs even or better with him among Republicans without college degrees.
"At the risk of oversimplifying it, I think that the upper-income college-educated [Republican] group is looking for a CEO for the economy, somebody who knows something about how jobs are created," said veteran GOP consultant Ralph Reed, who was executive director of the influential Christian Coalition during the 1990s. "It is almost a managerial issue. I think what the more culturally conservative grassroots are looking for is a classic tea party candidate who is not intimidated by the establishment, not about to be cowed by media attacks; who will stand up and fight for them and will be a real game-changer, if elected, in terms of how Washington operates."
Republicans have typically picked nominees who fit the manager mold more closely than the populist one (although some, particularly Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, combined elements of both). But the demographic balance of power inside the GOP coalition is shifting downscale, a change that could provide a greater opening for the populists, including Palin if she runs. The party's new tilt could also produce a 2012 race that divides the GOP much more than before along lines of class and education, the same fissures that have often characterized Democratic nominating contests, particularly the 2008 race between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"We know from history that usually, almost always, the manager wing—the mainstream conservative Republican wing—nominates the candidate," says consultant John Weaver, a longtime senior strategist for 2008 GOP nominee John McCain. "But if we are seeing real cultural shifts inside the party where we will have more blue-collar, noncollege-educated voters, that could change."
THE CLASS INVERSION
In the first decades after the New Deal, the GOP was the party of the corner office. During that era, Republican presidential and congressional candidates routinely ran better among white voters with at least a four-year college degree than among those without one, according to the University of Michigan's biennial national election polls dating back to the early 1950s.
Since the 1960s, however, Republicans have steadily improved their position among working-class whites, many of whom lean toward the right on cultural and national-security issues and view government skeptically. As Republicans have reached deeper into those blue-collar communities, Democrats have improved their performance among college-educated white voters who trend toward liberal positions on the same social and foreign-policy issues that have drawn many working-class whites toward the GOP.
The result has reversed the historic pattern: In the three presidential elections since 2000, Bush and McCain each won a larger share of the vote among noncollege than college-educated whites. In the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans dominated among virtually all white voters, but the same pattern held: According to exit polls, the GOP captured the votes of a stunning 63 percent of noncollege whites in House races, an even more astronomical number than the 58 percent the party won among college-educated whites.
This long-term, but now accelerating, class inversion has reshaped the demographic basis of each party's coalition—and its electorate in the primaries. The change transformed the Democratic Party first.
In the era of mass presidential primaries (which began in 1968), the Democratic nominating contest has frequently come down to a race between a "beer track" candidate who relies primarily on economically populist working-class voters (including minorities) and a "wine track" rival who relies mostly on more culturally liberal college-educated white voters. For decades, in every race in which that pattern emerged, the beer-track candidate beat the wine-track contender (think Walter Mondale besting Gary Hart in 1984 and Al Gore defeating Bill Bradley in 2000).
In 2008, Barack Obama, who ran much better among college-educated than working class whites, became the first wine-track candidate in the primary era to win the nomination. That was partly because he shifted most African-American voters to his camp. However, it was also because college-educated white voters (who gave as many of their votes to Obama as to Clinton) had grown as a share of the primary vote to the point where they equaled the blue-collar whites who overwhelmingly preferred Clinton, according to a cumulative analysis of all 2008 Democratic primary exit polls conducted by ABC News.
As the Democratic primaries have shifted upscale, blue-collar voters have become an increasingly important factor within the Republican primary electorate. In the 2008 GOP primaries, according to ABC's cumulative exit-poll analysis, voters without a four-year college degree made up a 51 percent majority of the total vote, compared with 49 percent for those with a college degree. In some coastal states, where overall education levels tend to be higher, college-educated Republicans still cast most of the 2008 primary votes. But in many Midwestern and Southern states, noncollege voters dominated in the primaries. (See chart.)
Rob Stutzman, a California-based Republican consultant who advised Romney last time, said that the shifting demographics became concrete for him when Huckabee upset Romney in the 2008 Iowa caucuses with a message that combined cultural conservatism with populist economics and free-trade skepticism. The mix was reminiscent of the agenda that Pat Buchanan offered in his 1992 and 1996 Republican primary bids, although Huckabee delivered it with a more cheerful disposition.
"When Huckabee was able to undercut Romney not just by appealing to Christian [values], but appealing to Christian blue-collar Republican voters with populist economics and protectionism … that was to me an 'aha' moment," Stutzman said. "You had voters buying into an economics that hasn't had a home in the Republican Party since Buchanan."
Given the GOP's overwhelming general-election performances among working-class whites in 2008 and 2010, many party strategists expect those supporters to contribute an even larger share of the GOP vote in the 2012 presidential primaries. "Once people cross the bridge and become active [with a party] in the general election, they become more active in the primaries," Weaver said. "My sense is that will happen—and it will change the dynamic of the primary."
A NEW CLASS DIVIDE
In contrast to the Democratic presidential primaries, class and education traditionally have not created major fissures in Republican nomination contests. ABC's cumulative analysis found that in 2008, for instance, John McCain won exactly the same share of the vote among college and noncollege Republicans. Historically, the more important Republican primary dynamic has been ideological, with center-right and hard-right voters diverging.
Early evidence suggests, however, that the wine-track, beer-track dynamic could affect the GOP in 2012 and overlay the familiar ideological contrast with factors of economic class, cultural style, and tone. In early national polling, Palin and Romney, in particular, display mirror-image patterns of support much like the contrast between Clinton and Obama in 2008.
In the most recent national Quinnipiac test of GOP voter preferences for 2012, Palin led Romney 22 percent to 14 percent among Republican-leaning voters who don't have a college degree. But college-educated Republicans preferred Romney over Palin, 26 percent to 10 percent. Gallup's most recent national horse-race test produced similar results. Among white noncollege Republicans, Romney and Palin ran about even; but among college-educated white Republicans, he led her 27 percent to 10 percent. In both the Quinnipiac and Gallup surveys, Huckabee and Gingrich, the other two candidates who polled best, showed equal strength among both groups (although in his 2008 race, Huckabee drew somewhat more backing from noncollege than college-educated voters).
Ideology only partially explains the GOP's new class divide. To help quantify the differences between blue-collar and white-collar Republicans, National Journal and the Pew Research Center recently analyzed results from their joint Society for Human Resource Management/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll over the past year, as well as from other Pew surveys.
The two groups differed on some fronts. Blue-collar Republicans in the surveys were more likely than their white-collar counterparts to look skeptically at free trade and to oppose gays serving openly in the military. The downscale Republicans were much more likely to say that the United States should mind its own business internationally—and should act unilaterally when it does get involved. The blue-collar camp was also more skeptical of extending President Bush's tax cuts for all earners. Upscale Republicans are most interested in cutting taxes; downscale Republicans probably place greater priority on cutting spending. The blue-collar Republicans are "very antigovernment—waste and inefficiency in government just drives them out of their mind," says Alex Gage, a GOP consultant who specializes in targeting voters. "It drives both sides [of the party] out of their minds, [but] for the blue-collar folks it's visceral: 'We balance our budget; why can't they balance theirs?' "
Opinion varied little between the two groups on most economic and cultural issues. Respondents on both sides were equally as likely to support establishing private-investment accounts under Social Security, denying birthright citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants, repealing Obama's health care law, converting Medicare into a voucher program, and increasing domestic exploration for oil and gas. (See chart.)
Those results support the conclusion of Republican consultant Mike DuHaime, McCain's 2008 general-election field director, who says that the biggest differences between the potential populist and manager candidates in 2012 are likely to be less about issues than about "tone and focus."
The populists define themselves, above all, by their scorn for elites, including the party's own leadership. Their rhetoric is hot, sweeping, and frequently contemptuous. Palin, in her latest book, America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag, echoes decades of conservative populists when she contrasts a virtuous folk with a disdainful and corrupted elite. "The American people," she writes, "have a principled wisdom that all the lawyers and academics and schooled-up 'experts' in D.C. fail to appreciate." Palin has been nearly as tough on the GOP leadership, condemning "the blue bloods who want to pick and choose" the party's nominees. Huckabee's tone is less confrontational, but his message is similar.
This positioning carries some policy implications. Huckabee, for instance, has been a leading critic of the Troubled Asset Relief Program's bank bailouts, as has Palin (after initially supporting the plan as McCain's running mate). Romney, meanwhile, supported TARP. The managers portray free trade as essential to economic growth, while Huckabee laments the jobs lost to foreign competition. Both camps call for cutting taxes, spending, and regulation. The managers, however, mostly portray smaller government as a means of invigorating the economy; the populists talk more about pruning back federal influences to expand personal liberty and local control. One side speaks in terms of efficiency, the other in terms of morality.
That contrast will also ring through what could be the most heated policy argument of the 2012 GOP race. Romney has defended his Massachusetts health care plan, which includes the same sort of individual mandate that Obama imposed in his reform bill, as an attempt "to get health care to work like a market," as he recently said. But the populists, and even some of the managers, condemn the mandate, which requires individuals to purchase insurance, as a threat to individual freedom.
Even with these potential conflicts, the core of the populists' appeal is less their program than the sense of cultural identification they inspire. They offer not so much to lead their voters as to embody them—their hopes, fears, aspirations, and resentments. Stutzman speaks for many Republican analysts when he says, "The fundamental appeal of Palin and even Huckabee" is the emotional connection they can forge with "a lunch-bucket guy who is still working for the man and [feels] the man is screwing [him]." The more Palin and, to a lesser extent, Huckabee, hurl thunderbolts at contemptuous elites—or take return fire from them—the more deeply those anxious and frustrated voters identify with the populist champions. If Palin runs, Stutzman predicts, "the other candidates have to figure out how to cut the wires on this bomb without blowing it up."
Emotional connection isn't the priority for the other camp of GOP voters. Upper-income Republicans may appreciate the polish of Romney or Daniels, but the managers' greatest assets are their résumés, their accomplishments, and their agendas. They are less likely to condemn elites than to cite their success in mastering elite institutions. Romney, for instance, often boasts about his background as a management consultant. If Daniels, Barbour, or any of the other GOP governors challenge Romney in the manager lane, they would probably assert that their successes at the state level have equipped them to tame Washington. Few voters anywhere would pick Palin because of her successes in public office. For her supporters, Palin's values and cultural symbolism dwarf her achievements. For Romney, the reverse is true.
THE TIPPING POINTS
At this early stage, the buttoned-down, boardroom-savvy Romney and the rifle-toting, consonant-dropping Palin represent the purest embodiments of the manager and the populist camps, and they generate the sharpest class divide in responses from GOP voters. The diminutive, cerebral Daniels also seems to fit squarely in the manager camp. Huckabee, despite his balanced appeal in early polls, would likely draw more from the populist pool if he runs.
The other potential candidates fan out along this continuum. Barbour, a former lobbyist and national party chairman, would probably draw more from the manager camp, although his good-ol'-boy Southern manner could open doors with downscale voters (especially in his home region). Thune has defined himself less than the other major contenders have, but stylistically he overlaps more with Romney than with Palin. Pawlenty might define the midpoint of this array: He has solid governing credentials but also a blue-collar background that could help him connect downscale without alienating upscale voters. Gingrich, as throughout his career, is difficult to pigeonhole, but his vituperative attacks on Democratic (if not Republican) elites might ultimately push his appeal toward the populist portion of the party.
With the upscale and downscale components of the Republican coalition now about equal in size, several factors may be critical in determining whether a manager or a populist captures the nomination.
One key variable will be which pond is more crowded: Romney, for instance, would benefit if both Palin and Huckabee emerge as serious candidates and divide the populist vote; likewise, either of them would gain if Daniels or Barbour cut into Romney's upscale base.
"Almost always, the manager wing—the mainstream conservative Republican wing—nominates the candidate." —GOP consultant John Weaver
Even more important will be which candidate can cross over from his or her base into the party's other camp. Romney faces serious obstacles of style and substance in connecting with blue-collar Republicans. On the other hand, many GOP strategists believe that Palin, who has defined herself since 2008 as a celebrity as much as a political leader, would confront even bigger barriers with upscale voters. In the early Gallup survey, Romney led her comfortably even among college-educated white Republican women. "I don't know how Sarah Palin expands her base significantly beyond what it is," Weaver says, echoing a widespread judgment.
Weaver believes that Huckabee, with his "sunny optimism" and "inclusiveness" has more potential to "poach" in the upscale pond. But Weaver, like others, is dubious that Huckabee can construct a campaign operation to seize that opportunity. That points to a third key factor: The managers, who are more connected to key party leaders and institutions, are likely to hold the edge in building effective campaign structures, notwithstanding Palin's ability to raise enormous sums of money.
A final critical variable will be the nature of the 2012 debate. If the race focuses on hostility toward Washington, anger at elites in both parties, and tests of ideological purity, those dynamics will favor the populists, as they did the tea party insurgents who won several GOP Senate primaries this year. One senior strategist for a 2012 contender, who asked not to be identified, says that anyone who thinks a populist can't win the Republican nomination should "just frankly … look at this year's Senate primary elections" for proof to the contrary.
But the managers will benefit if the election revolves around reviving the economy. Whit Ayres, a veteran GOP pollster, predicts that the Republican contest will overwhelmingly focus on that issue, boosting candidates such as Romney and dooming Palin if she runs. "Until the economy turns around … jobs and spending are going to dominate everything, and that means cultural affinity is less important," Ayres contends. "Palin has no record of significant job creation or significant public-sector accomplishment. She is going to run up against a wall at some point because of that lack of a demonstrated record of accomplishment."
Looking beyond the primaries toward the 2012 general election, many GOP analysts argue that a manager might be a stronger nominee than a populist, simply because white-collar voters are likely to be a more contested constituency than blue-collar whites, most of whom appear locked into opposition to Obama. The ideal for the party would be to find a candidate who can transcend the class divide in both the primaries and the general election, but that may not be easy in a field where Romney and Palin embody such contrasting archetypes of the GOP's future. "Part of what you have with the strength of Palin and Huckabee is a communication style and authenticity, and with Romney you have an intellectual appeal," DuHaime says. "And looking for some combination of that is not easy to find."
Last week at a private meeting with incoming governors at Blair House, Governor-elect Nikki Haley of South Carolina pointedly asked President Obama if he would allow repeal of his signature health care law. The people and small businesses of my state cannot afford the mandates in the new law, she reportedly told the president. It was a bold gesture for a woman not known to be a shrinking violet. Obama politely but firmly said he would not agree to repeal but would allow carve-outs for states that essentially adopted Obamacare at the state level. He seems to be in a faux compromising mood these days.
Yesterday a federal judge in Richmond, Virginia, did what Obama won't do: he overturned the central provision of the law, an individual mandate requiring every person in the country to purchase private health insurance or pay a fine of up to $2,200 to the federal government. The judge ruled the individual mandate was an excessive and unconstitutional exercise of the Commerce Clause. The federal government has no right to force individuals to purchase a product. As Hans von Spakovsky of The Heritage Foundation points out, this all but assures this case will find its way to the Supreme Court, where we can only hope the justices reach the same conclusion.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs admitted the ruling struck at the heart of Obamacare:
Obviously the individual responsibility portions of the Affordable Care Act are the basis and the foundation for examining and doing away with insurance company discrimination on behalf of preexisting conditions. Obviously, without an individual responsibility portion in the law, you could not find yourself dealing with preexisting conditions because the only people that would likely get involved in purchasing health care would be the very sick. And obviously, that would be enormously expensive.
Without the individual mandate, people would simply wait until they are sick to buy insurance. Why? Because Obamacare prohibited insurance companies from turning down individuals based on a previous medical conditions. The prohibition on denial of coverage for those with previous conditions and the individual mandate are two parts of a whole; strike down the latter provision and the entire experiment comes crashing down.
Two lessons emerge from this turn of events. The first is elections have consequences. Obamacare became law because Republicans lost in 2006 and 2008, creating the greatest opportunity for the passage of sweeping progressive legislation since the Great Society. But by winning the presidency in 2000 and 2004 and controlling the Senate for all but a brief period for the first six years of his presidency, George W. Bush was able to appoint 325 judges to the federal bench, including two solid conservatives (Roberts and Alito) to the Supreme Court. Over a quarter of the federal judges in the country were appointed by Bush 43, including Judge Henry Hudson, who ruled Obamacare unconstitutional. The federal courts, once the last refuge of progressive notions of social justice, is less hospitable. The same is true of the 2009 and 2010 elections. Ken Cuccinelli was elected attorney general of Virginia while riding the wave of the biggest GOP landslide in the Commonwealth since Reconstruction. He filed suit seeking the overturning of Obamacare one day after it was signed into law. The new Republican House of Representatives will seek to repeal it and defund it. So if conservatives want to affect the direction of the country, they must win elections, and lots of them, at the state and federal level over a long period of time.
Second, it is remarkable how unpopular Obamacare is in the country as a whole. Nancy Pelosi famously said they needed to pass the bill so people knew what was in it. Well, they passed it, we know what's in it, and we don't like it. According to a Rasmussen survey, the day before Election Day the number of voters who supported Obamacare was only 36%, while 58% favored its repeal. Other surveys show a closer spread, but they all show Obamacare is less popular than on the day it passed, and that is not a good sign for this administration. When it comes to the Obama agenda, the more we see, the less we like. For that reason, ending Obamacare once and for all will be the rallying cry for conservatives between now and 2012.
There is still no sign at all of any kind of near or long-term recovery for President Obama after his midterm shellacking in early November. If anything, one month on from the Congressional elections which brought the Democratic Party to its knees, the outlook is getting even worse for the Obama presidency, and the notion of an Obama bounce is simply a pipe dream at the moment.
The latest Bloomberg National Poll makes especially grim reading for the White House. More than half of all Americans (51 percent) believe they are worse off than they were two years ago when Barack Obama took office, with just 35 percent saying they are better off. A striking 66 percent of voters believe America is on the "wrong track", with just 27 percent agreeing with the view that the United States is heading in the "right direction".
Among Democrats, 48 percent think the country is on the wrong track, as opposed to 44 percent who disagree. And even more worryingly for the president, who is now trying harder to appeal to the centre ground, 67 percent of Independents believe Obama's America is going down the wrong path, with just 24 percent disagreeing.
Fears over the economy are undoubtedly the biggest factor in the lack of confidence Americans have in their president. According to the Bloomberg survey, 50 percent of respondents listed unemployment and jobs as the most important issue facing the country, with 25 percent citing the federal deficit and government spending. Other issues, such as health care and immigration, are ranked as the most important by just 9 percent and 5 percent respectively. And consumer confidence remains stubbornly downbeat. When asked if they plan to spend more this Christmas season compared to 2009, just 12 percent said yes, with 46 percent declaring they plan to spend less.
Bloomberg points out that Ronald Reagan's numbers were even lower than Barack Obama's at the end of his second year in office – with 61 percent of Americans saying they were worse off, according to aWashington Post/ABC poll in October 1982.
Reagan however was a hugely experienced, highly principled politician, who advanced free market policies that ultimately led to an economic boom for America. He was also an extremely inspirational and charismatic leader, a conviction politician with an unshakeable belief in American greatness. In contrast, Barack Obama has relatively little leadership experience, fails to inspire the American people, does not even believe in American exceptionalism, and is implementing policies that are making America weaker, poorer and more indebted. He also heads a party that is deeply divided, with liberals engaged in an increasingly ugly civil war, with open talk of a challenge to Obama for the 2012 nomination.
President Obama's personal approval rating now stands at just 46 percent, one point behind George W. Bush, and a staggering 28 points behind Ronald Reagan at 74 percent. Political comebacks can never be ruled out, but there's certainly no sign of one yet on the horizon for the current occupant of the White House.
PRINCETON, NJ -- As Congress considers what to do about the Bush tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of this year, Americans are sending a clear signal that they want them extended in some shape or form. Forty percent want Congress to maintain the tax cuts for everyone, while 44% support setting limits on how much of wealthy Americans' income is eligible for the lower rates.
A follow-up question clarifies where Americans would draw that income line, using some widely discussed income thresholds. Relatively few Americans -- 5% -- would set the cutoff for receiving the Bush tax rates at $1 million, but 12% would set it at $500,000. Combined with the 40% who want no income cutoff, this means a 57% majority of Americans believe the Bush tax cuts should fully apply to household income under $500,000. An additional 26% would set the income threshold at $250,000. Thus, 83% are in favor of retaining the tax cuts on income up to that figure.
Additionally, those who want to extend the Bush tax cuts are divided over whether to make the cuts temporary until the economy improves, or permanent. Among Americans overall, slightly more (45%) think the tax-cut extension should be temporary than say it should be permanent (37%). This is in addition to the 13% who want the tax cuts to expire.
Income Differences Are Mild
No more than 15% in any income group wants the Bush tax cuts to expire this year, while the rest are about evenly divided between wanting them extended for all versus extended with income limits on wealthy Americans. Also, similar percentages at each income level, between 50% and 57%, believe an extension of the Bush tax cuts should be temporary.
There are greater differences among political groups. Still, even on this basis, relatively few Democrats, independents, or Republicans are in favor of having the tax cuts expire. The majority of Republicans want the tax cuts extended for everyone, while the majority of Democrats want them extended with income eligibility limits. Independents are evenly divided between the two alternatives.
Additionally, 56% of Republicans think the tax cuts should be permanent while an even larger majority of Democrats, 69%, say they should be temporary.
The same USA Today/Gallup survey, conducted Nov. 19-21, finds Americans putting relatively high importance on having the lame-duck Congress extend the Bush tax cuts by year's end. Fifty percent rate this as a "very important" goal and another 31% call it "somewhat important." The only goal that ranks higher among six pressing issues before Congress that were tested in the survey is passing legislation to keep the estate tax from rising.
Of those who say extending the Bush tax cuts is very important to them, 55% are in favor of maintaining the tax cuts for all Americans. Additionally, 57% of this group wants the tax cuts extended permanently.
With most Americans in favor of maintaining the Bush tax cuts at least for the middle class, the outgoing Congress has an uncommonly clear mandate in its final days. The challenge is in finding common ground on the details. Forty percent of Americans fundamentally agree with Republican congressional leaders who are striving to maintain the tax cuts for all income groups. Slightly more, 44%, are aligned with President Obama, who has said he is committed to setting limits on how much of wealthy Americans' income is eligible for the reduced tax rates. As the two sides continue to work toward a compromise, they should bear in mind that the least popular outcome would be doing nothing, thus letting the tax breaks expire altogether.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.
From: Rasmussen Reports
In November, 36.0% of American Adults identified themselves as Republicans; 34.7% considered themselves Democrats, and 29.3% were not affiliated with either major party. That's the largest number of Republicans since February 2005 and the first time ever that Rasmussen Reports polling has found more people identifying as Republicans than Democrats. See the History of Party Trends from January 2004 to the present.
In November 2008, following the presidential election, Democrats held a 7.6 percentage point advantage over the GOP. That means Republicans have picked up a net of approximately nine points over the past two years. That is a somewhat larger gain compared to the Democratic gains from the reelection of President Bush in 2004 to the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006. However, it is similar to the gains recorded by Democrats during the four-year period from Election 2004 to Election 2008.
In each of the recent election cycles, the victorious party has gained in net partisan identification over the course of the election year.
It is worth noting, however, that the gains are often short-lived. Following Election 2004, the Republican partisan decline began in February 2005. In 2006, the Democratic edge began to decline as soon as they actually took control of Congress in January. Following President Obama's victory in November 2008, the Democrat's advantage in partisan identification peaked in December before declining.
Another point worth noting is that the GOP has the edge today partly because the number of Democrats is barely above the lowest level ever recorded in eight years of monthly tracking by Rasmussen Reports. This supports the conclusion that Election 2010 was less a victory for the Republicans than a defeat for the Democrats. A majority of voters expect to be disappointed by the GOP Congress before 2012. Republican voters overwhelmingly believe Republicans in Congress are out of touch with the party's base.
Rasmussen Reports tracks this information based on telephone interviews with approximately 15,000 adults per month and has been doing so since November 2002. The margin of error for the full sample is less than one percentage point, with a 95% level of confidence.
(Want a free daily e-mail update ? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.
On the eve of the elections last month, the number of Democrats temporarily surged. However, the November totals are virtually identical to the September totals.
The biggest partisan gap advantage ever measured for Democrats was 10.1 percentage points in May 2008. In December 2008, the final full month of the Bush administration, the Democrats held an 8.8-percentage-point advantage.
Between November 2004 and 2006, the Democratic advantage in partisan identification grew by 4.5 percentage points. That foreshadowed the Democrats' big gains in the 2006 midterm elections. The gap grew by another 1.5 percentage points between November 2006 and November 2008 leading up to Obama's election.
The number of Democrats peaked at 41.7% in May 2008, and it was nearly as high - at 41.6% - in December 2008. The number of Democrats fell below the 40% mark in March 2009 and first fell below 36% in December of last year. Rasmussen Reports has been tracking this data monthly since November 2002.
For the last two months, the number of Democrats in the country reached record lows of 35.0% and 34.6%. Prior to those surveys, the lowest level of identification with the Democrats had been 35.1%.
For Republicans, the peak was way back in September 2004 at 37.3%. Since then, until this month, the number of Republicans has generally stayed between 31% and 34% of the nation's adults.
Keep in mind that figures reported in this article are for all adults, not likely voters. Republicans are a bit more likely to participate in elections than Democrats.
The president's approval rating has held fairly steady throughout 2010 as reflected in our month-by-month review.
Republicans continue to hold an advantage on the Generic Congressional Ballot.
Republicans continue to be trusted more than Democrats on most key issues.
Data from our monthly partisan identification survey is used to set weighting targets for other Rasmussen Reports surveys. The targets are based on results from the previous three months.
I recently did a Podcast interview for the series called "Research on Religion". The interview was conducted by Tony Gill, professor of political science at the University of Washington.
You can listen to it here.
I discuss the role religion played in the 2010 midterm US elections as well as a myriad of other topics including the changes within the religious and political landscape over the last few years and the role of Evangelicals within the Tea Party movement.
Here is how Professor Gill describes his Research on Religion Podcast series:
"Our goal for this podcast series is to make scholarly research on religion interesting, relevant and accessible to a broad audience. We intend this audience to include other scholars, clergy members and anyone else who has an interest in religion. The conversational format of our podcast is designed to facilitate a jargon-free discussion of major topics within the social scientific study of religion."