GOP groupthink

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[Conor Friedersdorf]

Daniel Larison on an NPR poll that doesn't reflect very well on Republicans:

It has an interesting feature that measures agreement with a series of statements with and without partisan labels. On the whole, the overall difference in support or opposition for a given position between the “partisan” and “non-partisan” respondents is not that great (the GOP’s position loses approximately 60-40 regardless of labeling), but there was one figure that caught my attention in the breakdown of the Iraq responses. When told that it was the Republican position, Republican respondents were significantly more likely to support that position than otherwise. Agreement was 69-28 in the “partisan” group and 55-38 in the “non-partisan,” so when not conditioned to respond tribally according to party loyalty Republicans were much less likely to support the party’s standard Iraq position. Put simply: when voters are considering the policy substance offered by the competing parties, the Republican position scarcely wins a majority of its own partisans and loses badly with everyone else. It will hardly be news to anyone that supporting the war in Iraq is a losing issue for the GOP, but past polling has given the misleading impression that the party is overwhelmingly supportive in such a way that makes Republican dissent difficult. Perhaps these results point towards a more evenly-divided GOP that would tolerate more open opposition to the war.

These results certainly point to Republican voters who ought to be more independent-minded, whatever conclusions they reach.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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