Thursday, September 22, 2011

GOP Party Actors and Information

Another in the great series of "Power Outsiders" surveys from Mark Blumenthal and Pollster is up today. This time, it's bad news for Michele Bachmann; seems as though Pollster's collection of various party actors in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina are not exactly taken with her. You really do want to click through for the word bubble of their single-word descriptions. OK, I'll give you one tease -- my favorite is "Munchausen."

As regular readers know I'm a big fan of this project, which was inspired by the party network literature within political science (which I've contributed to, so it's of particular interest to me). Findings such as those by Cohen et al. have convinced Blumenthal that it's a good idea to find out what various party actors in early states are thinking. He's right!

So far, Pollster's surveys have quite reasonably been focused on horse race type questions. I've been wondering about what else I'd like to know, and I've thought of two overlapping concerns about information. One is where and how these party actors learn about candidates. Is it through personal contact with the candidates? With the candidates' staffs? Though word of mouth from other locals? From national contacts? From local or national officials or opinion leaders? What is the role of the neutral press and the party-aligned media in all of this? And that leads to my second set of questions: how do these active political players treat the party-aligned media? I'd guess that they virtually all watch Fox News and perhaps read conservative blogs and that they certainly don't watch MSNBC or read liberal blogs...but do they also seek out the neutral press, despite almost certainly believing that it has a strong liberal bias? How do they feel about talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh? Assuming they like Rush and many of the others: do they think of them as important and trusted sources of information, or great (but not necessarily factually reliable) entertainment?

I suppose I'm also interested in questions about "establishment" and other such things, but I'm not sure that a survey can get at it. Indeed, I'm pretty sure how such questions would turn out. More or less 100% of respondents would recognize three groups: a party establishment more interested in perks than policy and all too ready to compromise with liberals; an insurgent or anti-establishment group of strong conservatives who represent the real energy of the party and who would win all elections and govern wisely if only they could grab hold of the party; and a crazed group of wacko true believers who have gone 'round the bend. And I'm also guessing that 100% of respondents would place themselves  in the middle of those three groups. At least that's what I always hear when I listen to GOP party actors, no matter how RINO or how wacko others probably see them. So if that's all one could get, then better to track information flows, which really could I believe tell us something interesting.


  1. how is this different than dewey square?

  2. Someone needs to invent a word cloud that groups together synonyms. In the Bachmann cloud, "ill-prepared" and "unprepared" would be twice their current size as one word. And really they're saying the same thing as "inexperienced," so should be increasing the size of that one instead of sitting off alone in unreadable agate type. Likewise, I'd really like to see what this cloud would look like if synonyms for "crazy" were all treated as one term.

  3. I know the answer to that last bit: not as fun!

  4. I think the survey should consider "Conservative" a positive word; if you're talking to Republicans, when would that be a negative? Especially if it's in response to a poll conducted by neutral ("liberal") media, and with the party in a state that doesn't tolerate RINOs. Sure, it doesn't necessarily reflect on other qualities needed for the job (preparedness, etc.), but "Conservative" can only be taken as a compliment in this case.

  5. BTW, everyone interested in word clouds & Bachmann should check out Buchler's piece (See the monkey cage here for a synopsis:


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