“The Numbers Don’t Lie”

Ripon Society hosts Pew Research for Discussion on American Electorate

WASHINGTON, DC – With the mid-term elections less than seven months away, The Ripon Society hosted a luncheon discussion yesterday afternoon to look at the American electorate and how political trends may impact the prospects of the Republican Party in November.

The discussion was entitled, “The Numbers Don’t Lie.” It featured a presentation by Dr. Michael Dimock, the Vice President of Research for the Pew Research Center, who, among other topics, discussed the GOP’s image among Americans, the issues in which Republicans are viewed favorably, and how young people view not only the party, but government. 

“The basic political landscape right now still has a bit of a Democratic tilt to it,” Dimock stated. “While the trend is toward independents, you’ve still got about an 8-point Democratic edge in party identification. I think some of this reflects the fact that the Republican Party’s brand in the public eye remains meager. There is less confidence in the party, and more negative perceptions of Republicans than Democrats.” 

Dimock noted that some of the deficit that the GOP faces in this regard is internal and comes from within the party itself. As an example, he pointed to a December poll which revealed that 42 percent of Republicans disapproved of the job their party’s leaders were doing in Congress. By contrast, 68 percent of Democrats approved of the job their leaders were doing. Similarly, 70 percent of Democratic-leaning independents had a favorable view of the Democratic Party, while barely half – 53 percent — of Republican-leaning independents had a favorable view of the GOP. 

“This deficit reflects a dynamic that has been going on since the second term of the Bush Presidency,” Dimock observed. “It involves what we refer to as ‘lapsed Republicans’ – people who got frustrated with the Republican Party during this time and feel that, in many ways, the party is not conservative enough. Although they still vote fairly reliably Republican, they now call themselves independents, and express a lot of criticism of Republican leaders.” 

Despite this deficit, Dimock stated that there were still several areas in which Republicans hold a clear advantage over the Democrats. For instance, more Americans (45-35 percent, to be exact) think the GOP does a better job of dealing with the federal budget deficit than Democrats do. Republicans also hold an advantage (42-38 percent) in dealing with the economy. Despite the fact that the party has spent so many years pushing to keep taxes low, the GOP is surprisingly tied with the Democrats (41-41 percent) on which party is better able to deal with the issue of taxation. 

On the issue of health care, Dimock noted that although public support of the Affordable Care Act is falling, Republicans continue to lag behind Democrats (37-45 percent) when it comes to which party is better able to deal with the issue. This is especially true among young Americans, whose increasing skepticism of Obamacare is matched by their skepticism of the Republican brand. 

“I don’t think it will surprise anyone to hear that the political leanings of the Millennial generation are very Democratic,” Dimock stated. “This is a generation that is very diverse – 41 percent are non-white. This is also a generation that is not as skeptical of government as other generations. In fact, when you talk about the generational divide in politics, we’re at an unusual moment where we have an older generation that has been consistently anti-government and a younger generation that is unusually pro-government.” 

To that end, Dimock pointed to a survey last fall that asked Americans whether they favored a bigger government that provided more services, or a smaller government that provided fewer services. Millennials were the only age group where a majority (55 percent) favored having a bigger government. That said, Dimock also pointed to another poll which revealed that Millennials, for all their pro-government leanings, also have an entrepreneurial spirit and appreciation of the private sector, with 76 percent agreeing that, “The strength of America is mostly based on the success of American business.” 

Dimock made his remarks before a crowd of over 150 Ripon Society members and Congressional Chiefs of Staff. He will make a similar presentation at The Ripon Society’s 4th Annual Legislative and Communications Directors Symposium on Leadership, which is scheduled to be held on March 7th at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.