Sunday, August 05, 2007

Republican Cognitive Dissonance

One of the most frustrating things that I felt from the afterrmath of the 2004 presidential election was a technocratic frustration. PIPA had polled Bush and Kerry voters on numerous issues and asked them what each group of voters thought their candidate was espousing.

a new PIPA-Knowledge Networks poll finds that Americans who plan to vote for President Bush have many incorrect assumptions about his foreign policy positions. Kerry supporters, on the other hand, are largely accurate in their assessments. The uncommitted also tend to misperceive Bush’s positions, though to a smaller extent than Bush supporters, and to perceive Kerry’s positions correctly. Steven Kull, director of PIPA, comments: “What is striking is that even after nearly four years President Bush’s foreign policy positions are so widely misread, while Senator Kerry, who is relatively new to the public and reputed to be unclear about his positions, is read correctly.”

Majorities of Bush supporters incorrectly assumed that Bush favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements (84%), and the US being part of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (69%), the International Criminal Court (66%), the treaty banning land mines (72%), and the Kyoto Treaty on global warming (51%).....

Kerry supporters were much more accurate in assessing their candidate’s positions on all these issues. Majorities knew that Kerry favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements (90%); the US being part of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (77%); the International Criminal Court (59%); the land mines treaty (79%); and the Kyoto Treaty on climate change (74%).

I found this frustrating because being accurate and clear has no political benefit it seems; instead projection about the blank canvas aided by skillful media manipulation was sufficient to allow for the illusion of solidarity and tribal identification.

Steve Benen at the Carpetbagger Report
has caught a Gallup Poll showing the Republican Base is engaging in the same cognitive dissonance again. Gallup showed that Guiliani is the most 'acceptable' nominee choice with 74% acceptability. This is not a bad position to be in -- a weak and non-inspiring field with the supposed heavyweights fading (McCain, Thompson) and a lethargic base who thinks they are going to get screwed no matter what. Steve notes one portion of the acceptability conventional wisdom:

The conventional wisdom suggested that these results, mirrored in other polls, spoke to a key development in Republican politics. Despite Giuliani’s support for abortion rights and gay rights as mayor, the GOP faithful apparently no longer consider his social positions a disqualifier in a presidential race.

But the conventional wisdom didn’t consider one nagging detail: most Republicans don’t know Giuliani’s positions on the hot-button, culture-war issues that have driven GOP politics for a generation.

The PEW Reports and TPM Election Central are showing the cognitive or at least informational dissonance that is going on here ---

“When Republicans and GOP-leaners are asked if they can name the Republican presidential candidate who is pro-choice, only 41% could correct name Rudy Giuliani. Among self-described conservatives, the answer wasn’t much better at a mere 47% correct.”

I think in the medium term it is good for the Democrats to be running against candidates whose central position on one of the two or three most salient issues that their base cares about is 180 opposite of the base. However in the longer term, political discourse is less healthy and communicative if there is such a large discrepency between stated and implemented policy positions and the public mis- perception of those beliefs.

No comments: