Monday, January 2, 2012

Catch of the Day

To No More Mister Nice Blog's Steve M., who took Frank Bruni to task for pretending that the Iowa caucuses introduce conservative extremism into the Republican Party.

I'm actually a bit ambivalent about this. On the one hand, it is definitely true that primary voters are more ideological than parties as a whole, and it's also definitely true that conservative activists have used the presidential nomination process over the years, and primary elections for other offices as well, to push the party to the right -- well to the right, overall, from where GOP voters as a whole might be most comfortable.

At the same time, however, there's nothing special about Iowa in all of that. The idea that Bruni is accepting, and that I've seen numerous times from others, that social conservatives and others with (relatively) fringe views are particularly to be found in the Hawkeye State is just nonsense. The silliest bit is where Bruni talks about "The state’s unrepresentative caucuses — in which a mere 100,000 or so of the most fervent voters, almost all of them white..." I'll not try to explain what's wrong with that. You can figure it out, right?

At any rate: nice catch!


  1. I'll not try to explain what's wrong with that. You can figure it out, right?

    I'm not sure. A sample size of 100,000 is more than ample if it is representative, but I'm not confident that this is what you are getting at.

  2. 100,000 fervent white voters is fairly representative of the Republican Party?

  3. Right, what would be truly unrepresentative would be a sample of Republican voters that somehow contained a lot of African- and Hispanic-Americans. Also 100K, representing roughly half of a state of 3 million, really not bad at all. My (wrong) guess would have been quite a bit lower.

  4. So you have a little over 3% of the population, largely self-selected.

    Suggesting this is non-representative does not strike me as being silly in the least.

    The idea that it could be a haven for an activist fringe seems quite likely.

    What's the problem?


  5. Yeah, Iowa is nothing like NH or SC - both filled to the brim with African-Americans looking to toss that usurper from the White House.

    Oh, wait, I get it.

  6. What Chris and kth and (if I'm reading it correctly)Geoff G said.

  7. Jonathan: Yes, the GOP in general is mostly white, and yes, a small sample *can* be representative. But that doesn't mean that it necessarily *is.* Those Republicans who decide to go to a caucus may well be more ideologically driven than those who would vote in a primary, let alone the total Republican-leaning voters of Iowa.

  8. Chris: it is fairly representative. (I'm responding because I can't tell if your post is sarcastic or not)

    The modern-day Republican party is overwhelmingly white. In the 2008 National Election Studies data (which does skew a bit more educated and liberal, but these numbers are the weighted %s, so they HOPEFULLY take care of that somewhat), it is true that being white is only associated with voting for McCain 53.5/44.4 (2.1% voted 3rd party). However, the real story is that minorities aren't Republicans, and are outnumbered by whites as well. Add that all up, and, believe it or not, McCain got 97.1% of his votes from whites (at least in the NES). If we go to partisan identification (maybe Obama pulled minorities away from McCain, or Bush pushed them away, or whatever), then it's still 95.4%.

    (To put these numbers in comparison to Obama voters and Dems, whites make up 66.7 and 65.3% there, respectively, and the census tells us that between 63.7% and 74.8% of the population is white. There's a range there, because it depends on how we define "white:" only white (63.7%) up through white (including Latino) in any part of their racial identity (74.8%).)

    Either way, the answer to Cleavon Little's question is "they're at the Iowa Republican caucuses!"

    As for fervency, I'd say the turnout differentials in 2010 suggest more fervency amongst Rs in general.


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