Conservative=Trumpist

Good stuff from top-notch political scientists Hans Noel and Dan Hopkins about what “conservativism” means in the era of Trump.  Sadly, increasingly it really means that you support Trump.  At 538:

If there’s any group of people who are likely to care about what terms like “conservative” and “liberal” mean, it’s political activists. These are the people who participate in politics beyond just voting: They volunteer for political campaigns, donate money, work for politicians, and in some cases, even run for office themselves. They also help define their parties in the eyes of voters and can be good barometers of shifting ideological winds, as they often influence and sometimes regulate politicians’ stances.

So to better understand how party activists think about conservatism and to measure Trump’s effect on how they think about it, we teamed up with HuffPost2 and YouGov to poll Republican and Democratic activists three times over the course of the 2016 campaign, and then once with YouGov in 2021 after Trump had left office, to ask them each time how conservative or liberal they thought a pair of prominent politicians was. For each pair, we simply asked, “Which of these two politicians is more liberal/conservative?”3 By random chance, some politicians are going to be paired against especially liberal or conservative counterparts, so simply counting up the number of times a politician was graded “more liberal” or “more conservative” won’t cut it. Instead, we adjusted for the politicians against whom a given politician was compared, which is akin to a “strength of schedule” adjustment in analyzing sports teams.4

A few key findings immediately stand out. First, in looking just at our 2021 survey data, a politician’s support for Trump has come to define who party activists think of as conservative. Romney, Toomey and Sasse were all rated as fairly liberal Republicans despite their conservative voting records in Congress, according to DW-Nominate, which quantifies the ideology of every member of Congress based on roll call votes cast in a legislative session. Staunchly pro-Trump politicians (or Trump-adjacent politicians), like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, Sens. Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley and Lindsey Graham, and Trump were all clustered together on the more conservative end of the spectrum, even though there is quite a bit of difference, ideologically speaking, between these men. Pence, for instance, stands out for having established a very conservative track record pre-Trump whereas Cotton, Graham, Hawley and DeSantis’s claims to being so conservative are more closely linked to their connection to Trump. What seems to matter more is not so much one’s voting record in the pre-Trump era as one’s relationship to Trump…

And despite his ideological heterodoxies, Trump was rated as more conservative than all but 10 of the 114 politicians we asked about. Ideology, in other words, isn’t just about policies.5

However, using our survey data from 2016,6 we can see that even before Trump became president, he was starting to redefine who party activists thought was conservative…

Political scientists like to point out that ideology and party are not the same thing. And yet, our measure of ideology among political activists suggests it’s even trickier than we think. We know that the Republican Party is changing. Longtime conservatives like Romney and Cheney say that the party has abandoned conservative principles and that they’re holding out hope the GOP will return to them. Our research suggests another possibility, though: Conservative principles themselves are changing. The civil warin the Republican Party, to the extent there is one, isn’t between conservatism and some new form of populism. Instead, it’s between the old view of conservatism and the new one. That suggests a very different future for the Republican Party — one in which reactions to Trump influence who is thought of as conservative more than views on taxes or spending.

And related enough to share a post, the excellent Voter Study Group is out with an excellent analysis for Republican of Trump’s fraudulent election fraud claims:

Key Findings

  • Republicans widely support Donald Trump and believe his claims about a stolen election. While Republicans support all elements of the ‘Stop the Steal’ narrative in high numbers, the overall electorate largely rejects these claims and propositions.
  • Among Republicans, 85 percent believe it was appropriate for Trump to file lawsuits challenging election results in several states, and the same proportion believe that vote-by-mail increases vote fraud; 46 percent of Republicans believe it was appropriate for legislators in states won by Joe Biden to try to assign their state’s electoral votes to Trump.
  • Republicans most committed to both Trump and the narrative of election fraud share a few other views in common: extreme antipathy toward Democrats and immigrants, belief that racism is not a problem, support for nationalism, belief in traditional family values and gender roles, and preference for a very limited role for government in the economy.
  • While a voter’s willingness to reject an election without evidence of fraud might suggest an embrace of authoritarianism, a key measure of authoritarian leanings — support for a “strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with Congress or elections” — is only weakly correlated to support for Trump and for the stolen election narrative.

And a couple of the key charts via Lee Drutman’s twitter thread:

A two-party democracy where one of the parties has a tenuous connection to A) reality, and B) Democratic principles is a democracy in serious trouble.  This is not good.

 

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