Monday, December 5, 2011


Since I've commented quite a bit on polling that as I read it shows Mitt Romney broadly acceptable to most Republican voters, I definitely need to say something about a new poll today that doesn't exactly show that. Gallup got around to actually asking that very question ("Please tell me if you would find ___ to be an acceptable  nominee for president from the Republican Party, or not"). The answers mostly showed the weakness of the field, with six of the eight candidates asked about scoring well below 50% acceptable. But the clear most-acceptable candidate is Newt Gingrich, with a 62/34 acceptable/not acceptable ratio, while Romney is only at 54/41.

There are a lot of ways to look at this, but overall it's certainly a piece of evidence that the anti-Romney vote is, well, around 40%. Only a piece of evidence, however. It's not clear how hard these kinds of numbers might be, in either direction. On the positive side, it seems unlikely that Newt would remain over 60% once more Republicans know that he's been lobbying for Freddie Mac, and supported the individual mandate on health insurance, and made a climate change ad with Nancy Pelosi, and all the rest of it. On the other hand, it's certainly possible that the "unacceptable" answers are awful soft, for Romney and for everyone else.

In particular, as Greg pointed out, Romney only does three points better on the "acceptable" scale with moderate Republicans than does Newt. This isn't the first indication we've had that Romney isn't doing as well with moderate Republicans as one would think he should be. Whether that means he has some room to grow or that he's just not an appealing politician is, I guess, still entirely up in the air at this point.

I still overall don't see a low cap on Romney's support, but of course all the evidence counts, and polling in general begins to be a little more important the closer we get to actual voting. I'll be continuing to track anything more we get on this one.


  1. Kudos for adapting your views a bit as new data comes in. I think you've been a step behind on the Newt thing because your analysis is so thoroughly grounded in political theory, data and historical precedent. Sure, that stuff still matters, but in the 2012 Republican primaries, all bets are off. The GOP and their base went nuts after Obama won, pretending otherwise only weakens your analysis.

  2. "I still overall don't see a low cap on Romney's support..."


    Well as I say, there's no gettin' through to the terminally perceptive. ;-)

    And you're right, polling does begin to be a little more important the closer we get to actual voting. But there are exceptions to that rule, for candidates who are well known. Unknowns can see late movement, as they become known (Huntsman?). But knowns, a month out from an election, are captive to events and fortune, because everybody already knows who they are. That's why you see Romney panicking the last few days. He's captive to events and fortune, things like NEWT FRICKING GINGRICH stealing his nomination, if you can believe it.

    Willard is a known, and the ABR bloc is at 40% and counting. Heck, that's even bigger than I thought it was.

  3. Anon 4:41, I don't understand -- Mitt Romney's numbers can't move much because he's so well known to the GOP base, while Gingrich's numbers have shifted by tens and dozens of points (depending on the question)? Romney is so much better known than Newt Gingrich that such widespread openness to reevaluating Gingrich doesn't suggest potential willingness to reevaluate Romney? How could that possibly be the case?

  4. Of course the numbers are soft, but I would think they are soft more in the sense that once there is a Republican nominee and everyone starts singing from the same hymnal (see Rushbo's rhetorical gymnastics to support nominee McCain), anyone they nominate will eventually be "acceptable" to 80-90% of Republican primary voters.

    This is how Alan Keyes got 27% as a carpet bagging IL Senate candidate when the original nominee was forced out by a sex scandal. Even the most ridiculous campaign by a painfully flawed replacement candidate gets 27% of Republicans. It's an utter floor.

    However, that doesn't happen until there is an actual nominee - and it's during the upcoming primaries where these numbers still matter to some degree. Even still, second place?


  5. You'd have to reference my discussion of the other day, but I'll repeat a bit of it here. Gingrich's movement is directly related to the existence of the ABR bloc. The fact that the ABR crowd is circling back around to Gingrich, the guy that they summarily rejected at the commencement of their long slog through the ABR process, is the final proof of the magnitude of the ABR bloc (and I doubt there's anybody but the terminally perceptive who need that final proof, but here it is.).

    These people are coming back around, full circle, to NEWT FRICKING GINGRICH. Anybody who doesn't get the significance of this must be trapped in an impenetrable bubble somewhere.

    Gingrich is one of the events and fortunes that poor Willard has to accept, because he can't move the needle on his own. And Gingrich is just fortunate that Willard is out there. This all has nothing to do with him... he's just like Willard in that way. That's why I'm expecting him to step on a landmine soon, like he does. He thinks he's standing on 3rd because he hit a triple.

  6. You lefties should really be paying me for this commentary. ;-)

  7. Who do we make the check out to?

  8. Did they conduct this poll earlier in the race, when Cain/Bachmann/Perry/Trump/et al were in the lead? If they did, it might give us a clue how useful this metric really is. If, for example, Trump was considered broadly "acceptable" by GOP voters at the time of his surge, that would be evidence that this metric is pretty meaningless.

  9. Unfortunately, no; it's the first time they've run it this cycle. And I spent some time looking for their 2008 results, but couldn't find them, so either I'm lame with the Google or they didn't do it. Both are possible!

  10. Jon:

  11. Wow. I am officially way lame.

    As far as substance...Romney is about where McCain was. FWIW. And in the earlier one, Newt was 43/52, again FWIW.

    I'll stick with what I said: it's evidence, but it's not anything close to definitive. As usual, the most important thing to remember is that most GOP voters have paid very little attention to the nomination race so far, and there's good reason to believe that their opinions are very soft.

  12. Yeah, but the McCain one was from mid-2006. Notice that Obama isn't even mentioned, yet several candidates who never entered the race (Condi, Jeb, Newt, Al Gore, etc.) are included in the poll. I'd take a poll from a few weeks before the primary just a tad more seriously than one from eighteen months before.

    (I got to these results simply by typing "acceptable nominees" into Google. It turned up nine hits, most of them references to the recent poll.)

  13. Anon 5:39: okay, so it's a more complicated claim: they know Newt and know they don't like him, but he looks very different against just Romney than he does against the whole field. In the former context, he's more than acceptable. Is that right?

    So, that makes sense and is perfectly plausible, but isn't it circular? "We can tell ABR supporters won't change their minds about Romney, because they'll even change their minds about Gingrich rather than support Romney" partially relies on the claim it's trying to prove. This could certainly still be right -- not all circles are vicious -- but I had thought you were making the stronger claim that this provided independent evidence for the hardness of the hard core of ABR.

    So, this goes back to your epistemological critique, which is both broad and deep (it's pretty hard to get out of a self-reinforcing bubble!). Liberals can't correctly interpret the information they're -- we're -- given, so it's pointless to try to reason by offering isolated facts, even in response to purely empirical questions (like this one about the strength of the ABR bloc). Rather, the best strategy is to present a coherent alternative worldview, so that we can see our bubble, and that there's something outside it.

    -- Am I understanding you correctly? If so, that's a very deep puzzle about justification, and probably the best case one could make for gadfly behavior. Hm...

  14. Not too mucb interested in what you formulate as conclusion, classicist. You can go on ahead with that, alone.

    We have what we have, right in front of our faces. We don't have what we don't have in front of our faces. The only question is, are we paying attention to what we have, and what we don't have, right in front of our faces?

    The terminally perceptive aren't, for sure. ;-)


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