“Verging on civil war — that’s where people think we are.”

Lake & Goeas Discuss Latest Poll Coming Out of the Election and Their Timely New Book Focusing on Respect

WASHINGTON, DC — A Question of Respect.

That’s the title of a new book out this week that explores the ever-widening fault lines of anger and incivility that currently exist in American public and private life.

It was also the focus of a breakfast discussion that The Ripon Society and Franklin Center for Global Policy Exchange hosted this past Wednesday morning with the book’s authors — veteran pollsters Celinda Lake and Ed Goeas.

Lake is the President of Lake Research Partners and one of the Democratic Party’s leading political strategists, while Goeas is the former President & C.E.O. of The Tarrance Group, one of the most respected and successful Republican survey research and strategy teams in American politics today.

Longtime collaborators, they have not only written a book together, but they continue to partner on and produce the Battleground Poll, one of the leading national issue and election thermometers.

Lake opened the discussion by previewing the results of the latest poll, which examined the results of the mid-terms and were being officially unveiled later in the day.

“Voters were very concerned about the economy,” she said, describing the mood of the electorate. “They were very concerned about abortion, but they were also very concerned about the threats to democracy. And there was bipartisan concern about that threat. 68% of Americans are concerned that political speech was inspiring people to take violent action; two-thirds of the people feeling that they wanted to move in a different direction, that there was a threat to democracy — people worried about elections being fair.”

“But when you look underneath that, people had different things in mind … Democrats were most concerned about voter intimidation and voter suppression. Republicans were most concerned about voter fraud. It’s interesting because Independents ebbed and flowed between the two groups.”

Where there is agreement, Lake added, is in the belief that the spirit of unity is lacking in America, and divisions really do exist.

“People really think the country is divided,” she said. “83% agreed that political division in our country is worse than it’s ever been; 67% strongly agreed with that. You don’t get numbers like that unless you get everybody agreeing in a bipartisan way. People believe that the polarization and the division are dangerously high.”

“We asked people to rate it on a scale from 0 to 100, with 0 being no political division in the country, and 100 being on the verge of a civil war. I imagined that rates would be around 55 or 60. It was 71. Verging on civil war — that’s where people think we are.”

That’s also one of the reasons, Lake said, that she and Goeas have written a book on the importance of respect.

“It’s a core value for all parties,” she observed. “97% of Democrats, 94% of Republicans, and 90% of Independents believe that respect for each other is the first step to having a government that works.”

Goeas agreed, and opened his remarks with his own observations about the mid-terms and the results of the Battleground Poll.

“There was a real ebb and flow on who was doing better,” he said of the months leading up to the election. “Through the end of the spring, Republicans were on a real high note. We had been really gaining a lot of traction in terms of support, not only among hardcore Republicans, but among soft Republicans and independents and even a few Democrats kind of coming over in our direction. After the Supreme Court decision, the numbers started moving back in their direction. We never lost the lead, but the lead closed quite a bit.”

“One of the most interesting statistics I have on the election is in congressional races. [Trump] went into eight congressional districts in the fall. We lost seven of those eight districts. He didn’t move them over the top — he moved them to the bottom. We have to be very honest about that impact.”

Goeas was also frank in his assessment of whether public concerns regarding threats to our democracy played a role in the election.

“75% of the American public believes that democracy is currently under attack,” Goeas stated bluntly. “65% believe that strongly. So it’s more than just Democrats, it’s more than just Republicans, and it certainly has a good deal of ticket splitters in that component.”

Goeas then turned his attention to the book he has co-authored with Lake, and how the importance of respect has not only guided him over the past several years, but why both he and Lake dedicated the book to the late John McCain.

“I had a son who was 8 and I had a son who was 11 at the time when [Trump] was first running,” he recalled. “It bothered me — his style and his ugliness and the instability that he had. It bothered me as a professional in politics, because I understand — and I wish more people did understand — that the image of the president or your presidential candidate defines you as a Republican. I didn’t want to be defined that way. I didn’t want to see our party defined that way.”

“One of the things I respected about John McCain is he saw humanity at its worst when he was a prisoner of war. They broke his arm eight times just trying to get him to agree to go home first, and he wouldn’t do it. There are other awful stories of how they not only hurt his body, but played with his mind during that period of time. I always felt the strength of John McCain’s civility, friendship, and trust was that he saw the worst and wanted to be the best.”

To view the remarks of Lake and Goeas at Wednesday’s breakfast discussion, please click on the link below:

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.