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Gop Polling Denial Has A Long History...

Leon Troutsky

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I was browsing through a very old CNN article about the fall of Newt Gingrich as House Speaker and came across something that stuck out at me:

For citizens discouraged by the fact that modern politics seems driven more by polls than principles, it's worth noting how sharp an exception this election was. G.O.P. leaders were proud to ignore what they read. Month after month, the polls held steady, first withholding judgment about Clinton's conduct and then concluding he should stay in office despite what he did. But Gingrich didn't believe them, couldn't bring himself to, since they violated so fundamentally his view of what voters care about and what leaders can get away with. It helped that he has always thought that "independent" polls published by the networks and newspapers were a great source of liberal power, that the questions were always somehow skewed against conservatives. "When all the national polls were coming out," says a Hill source, "everybody's attitude was, 'It's not real.'"

As for the Republicans' own polling operation, it was skimpy--and its results were suppressed or ignored by Republican leaders convinced that they had a truer feel for the country. These politicians mirrored the world they lived in. Being a G.O.P. congressional leader means being surrounded by the choir. Most of the real people you meet are those willing to plunk down $1,000 to attend a fund raiser--people, in other words, who aren't typical of the average voter, even the average Republican. If Gingrich was inflamed by Clinton's perfidy, the fires were fanned by the true believers who surrounded him.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the disastrous round of last-minute ads that Gingrich himself ordered up, reminding voters of the scandal they were so eager to get past. The ads were designed to motivate the Republican constituency and depress Democratic turnout; they seemed to have had the opposite effect, and Republicans blamed Gingrich for the blunder. Two weeks before the election, internal G.O.P. polls indicated that the voters were suddenly drifting away from the party, especially on the West Coast. Focus groups that tested the scandal ads, sources tell TIME, were decidedly lukewarm about them. And spending $10 million on ads in an election in which a low turnout was expected made no sense. Roughly 62% of the people the Republicans were paying to reach didn't bother to vote anyway. The notion that the ads could be tightly targeted to hard-core voters was just naive; most people saw them replayed on the evening news and Larry King.

Full article here:


I'm just baffled by how people at the highest levels of the GOP have for the past 15 years now deceived themselves into thinking that polls are skewed with some kind of liberal bias. It seems to be a recurring theme that at some point you would think Republicans would figure out. The anti-intellectualism is one of the GOP's biggest problems and it has cost them dearly in one election after another.

Interestingly, Republicans should take a page out of Rick Perry's gubernatorial reelection campaign where he used field experiments and other analytics approaches from stats geeks to craft his campaign strategy. Sasha Issenberg has a great $1 ebook chapter that describes the Perry reelection campaign called "Rick Perry and His Eggheads":


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