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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Economics, the State of the Union, and the Ever-Dimming Appeal of the GOP

Protester holds sign reading, 'NO LONGER REPUBLICAN'
As State of the Union speeches go, President Obama's 2014 appearance before the joint chambers of congress went well. Of the people who watched the speech, 53% had a "very positive reaction to his speech." Conservatives will no doubt point out that the sample is skewed left, but the poll can hardly be blamed for not including people who refused to watch the speech. The audience was largely Democrat and indie, so the sample is largely Democrat and indie.

Still, there's some nasty news for Republicans here. The CNN flash poll's respondents were "44% Democratic and 17% Republican." Yet, when asked if "the president's policies will move the country in the right direction," 71% said they would -- a number way too high to be explained by Democratic boosterism. That number has to include a lot of indies and even some Republicans. CNN reports that the number of dems in the sample is "about 12 points more Democratic than the population as a whole," so 71-12=59.

But let's not get all teabagger about things and start "unskewing" polls to advantage Republicans. Let's look at numbers that need no adjustment.


A Pew Research/USA Today poll released a few days ago polled several of the central themes of the State of the Union. From income inequality to reducing poverty to increasing the minimum wage to extending jobless benefits. The public is with the president and Democrats. And on the question of how to deal with most of these issues, Republicans are pretty far outside the mainstream.

On only one issue do Republican voters agree with the majority of Americans -- that the minimum wage should be raised to $10.10 an hour. And it's hardly a landslide; 53% think Americans should get at least a living wage. But it shows that even the party's voters are at odds with the party's elected officials.

But part of the problem is that Republicans don't seem to understand the issues surrounding poverty. 57% of Republicans say that people get rich by working harder than everyone else -- a silly argument that would make the guy who works on a loading dock a billionaire and the guy who sits at a desk trading money a pauper. Not surprisingly, this view is not shared by the majority. Only 35% agree with this explanation of wealth creation. People are far more likely to explain wealth as a matter of luck and privilege. 63% of Democrats and 52% of Independents believe that someone become wealthy "because he or she has had more advantages."

Only 36% say the economic system is "fair to most Americans," 60% say the economy is rigged to favor the wealthy, and 60% say most people are willing to work hard to get ahead. 54% would like to see taxes raised on the rich to expand programs to fight poverty, only 44% believe that government aid results in dependency, and a measly 35% believe that "lowering taxes on the wealthy to encourage more investment and economic growth" -- i.e., the GOP's core economic message or "trickle-down/supply side economics" -- would help to reduce poverty.

The President walked in to that congressional chamber last night with a deck of winning cards. No wonder his speech was well-received outside Republican circles.

And no wonder those Republican circles keep shrinking.


[photo by Matt Baran]

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