Video of the day

Daily show clip on the George Zimmerman acquittal.  Good stuff:

Why the Tea Party matters so much

At lunch today I was having a conversation with a friend about potential 2016 nominees, and naturally, we discussed Rubio.  I got back from lunch to read Kevin Drum’s post that argues that Rubio is now hopeless for 2016 because he’s angered the Tea Party:

The specific question that Josh and Ed are tossing around, though, is this: how can we say that Rubio is doomed just because he’s pissed off the base over immigration reform? After all, the last two Republican nominees had big base problems too.

I think the answer here is fairly simple, and it’s something that gets lost a lot: the tea party makes up only about half—or maybe slightly less than half—of the Republican base. In the past two GOP primaries, what’s basically happened is that there was a huge clown show between a bunch of candidates all sprinting rightward in order to win the tea party vote, and only one or two candidates seriously going after the more moderate vote.

I wasn’t sure where the “half the Republican base” figure comes from so I decided to see that the NES data had to say about the matter.  If we define the base as “primary voters” well, then, half it is:


Clearly a disproportionate influence, as you can see that whereas half the Republican primary voters support the Tea Party, overall, only about a third of Republicans do.

But it’s not just the primary voting– the Tea Party supports are truly where the energy of the Republican party.  The NES had two separate scales of political activity for 2012.  The first, labeled “activity” looks at trying to persuade others about voting, attending a political event, giving money, etc., (0 to 6 scale).,  The second, dhsactivity, is a somewhat broader measure of civic engagement that also includes things such as signing petitions (on-line or off) and writing letters, etc., (0 to 10 scale)   So, what you can see in the table below, is that even among Republican primary voters, the Tea Party supporters are a substantially more active set.  The Tea Party supporters engaged in about an additional half activity on average.  That’s nothing to sneeze out.  So, not only are the disproportionately likely to vote in primaries, they are disproportionately politically active, even among that already more active set of voters.


And finally, there are lots of demographic correlates of being in the Tea Party, so just to settle matters, I ran a regression (Republicans only) with plenty of demographic controls.  Short version, Tea Party support remains a clear factor in being more politically active.


In sum: the Tea Party is definitely driving the Republican Party (off a cliff?) because not only do they disproportionately participate in primaries but they are disproportionately politically active in all the ways to which politicians pay attention.

Photo of the day

Well, this is a first, my wife sent me a link to a cool gallery to use for photo of the day.  Great set of historical images (unfortunately, does not include attribution for any of them).

30 Unique And Compelling Photos From Our Past

Sharing bananas with a goat during the Battle of Saipan, ca. 1944

Public opinion on abortion

Over at 538, Dave Leonhardt (who is awesome, by the way) takes a nice look at public opinion on abortion– one of my favorite public opinion topics.  He runs through a variety of polls from Pew, Gallup, and NYT, for example this one:

And concludes:

On abortion, as with almost any issue, short poll questions and answers do not capture the full complexity of people’s views. The standard Gallup questions about trimesters do not mention exceptions, for instance. And although a recent National Journal poll may seem on the surface to suggest that a plurality of Americans support the restrictions that the Texas Legislature passed last weekend, the bill includes details ­— no exceptions for rape or incest, the effective closing of most of the state’s clinics ­— that most Americans would quite likely oppose. On the flip side, some people who oppose a broad abortion ban after 20 weeks of pregnancy also oppose abortion access in some instances, like, for example, for economic reasons or in cases when prenatal screening shows the fetus to have a nonfatal condition.

But be wary of analysts who try to take this complexity argument too far. It’s true that any snapshot of public opinion from a poll is imperfect. It is not true that if you scratch only under poll results deeply enough, you will discover the American people actually take a clear side on abortion. By any objective measure, the country is conflicted.

Ed Kilgore, argues, however, that the public is not quite so conflicted as Leonhardt makes it sound:

Leonhardt’s conclusion is that the complexity of public opinion on abortion shouldn’t obscure the fundamental fact that Americans (or at least a large plurality of them) are deeply “conflicted” on abortion policy. That’s true if the any position other than absolute support for or opposition to legal abortion in every circumstance is considered “conflicted.” But I’d say majority support for a regime of legal early-term abortion without restrictions and legal late-term abortions if they meet several “why” exceptions—including rape, incest, and most crucially life and health of the woman—is reasonably clear and consistent, even if antichoicers manage to come up with devious ways to undermine that regime. Since that remains the constitutional status quo and thus (at the federal level, at least) the law of the land, the “deeply divided” and “conflicted” CW about abortion opinion misses the mark.

I think Kilgore is mostly right here, but it’s still not that simple.  The fact that a majority of Americans oppose legal abortion because “the woman does not want any more children” or because “she cannot afford a child” speaks to the conflicting attitudes held by many Americans.  Ask if a first trimester abortion should be legal and you get, “yes!”  Ask if a woman should be able to have an abortion just because she wants one (which, of course, is overwhelmingly likely to occur in the 1st trimester) and you get, “no!”  Here’s the 2010 GSS



Truth is, when push comes to shove, I think policy-wise, there is a pretty decent consensus for the (mostly) status quo, but it’s a conflicted status quo.  Most Americans do think 1st trimester abortion should be legal, but they clearly think a woman should have a good reason for it– though, I suspect when pushed, most would back down on codifying “good reason” into law.

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