Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Thursday, November 06, 2003  

Pew has a new report out on the political landscape at the one-year-out point. It's a data wonk's dream: demographics, voting trend predictions; findings on policy opinions, trust in government, patriotism, religion, civil liberties, and on and on.

There's no way to summarize the data, nor to easily analyze them. Instead, a few pithy notes (and maybe more to come, as I read through the report).

Demographics: Swing States
According to the study, after 9/11 the country got more "red." Those states that voted for Bush in 2000 got redder, but the blue states stayed about the same. The swing states, however, have for the most part gotten redder, too.

Republicans have made notable gains in a number of key swing states. Michigan, Minnesota and Iowa ­ three Midwestern states Al Gore won in 2000 by very slight margins ­ have all experienced significant shifts in party ID toward the GOP. And the five-point advantage enjoyed by Democrats in Florida in the run-up to the 2000 election has evaporated. In polling since Sept 11, 2001, 37% of Floridians call themselves Republicans, 36% Democrats.

What's not totally clear is what the trends are now. The polling took place in August and mid-October, but I can't discern whether all items were polled then or different sections from the report. Clearly, the President and the GOP were looking far better in August than now. Bush's numbers didn't start falling until more recently, and they're still falling. One assumes that these results are more positive than they will be a year from now if the economy and Iraq situation remain unchanged. This is somewhat confirmed in another section in the report, where pollsters found "Despite GOP gains in party identification after Sept. 11, the electorate is evenly split over President Bush's reelection."

Foreign Policy
I was surprised to learn that although there was a bump after 9/11 in Americans' desire for retribution and an increase in xenophobia, these have returned to pre-9/11 norms.

Another very surprising finding is on the notion of "peace through strength" ("the best way to ensure peace is through military strength"). Predictably, Republicans endorse that strategy strongly (70%), but no more than historically. Democrats, on the other hand, endorse it less now. About half have historically believed in that policy, but it dipped to 44% this year, the lowest ever, and the greatest gap with Republicans.

So where do you think independents fall--with Dems or Repubs? Ready?--with the Dems. Only 51% support the idea, and the percentage has fallen. I was really surprised by this, and it goes to show that conventional wisdom on the issue may be wrong.

This is an absolutely fascinating section of the report, and I'd do a disservice to try to summarize things. Instead, I'll just close with this little fact and let you go examine the numbers for yourself. (I'll definitely keep reading, and no doubt unavoidably posting, on the findings.)

On the question "I am very patriotic," the percentage of Americans who completely agree is revealing.

1999 - 49%, 2002 - 50%, 2003 - 48%

1999 - 64%, 2002 - 63%, 2003 - 71%

So after 9/11, Americans' sense of their own patriotism was pretty much unchanged. That is to say--before it became politicized. But in the past year, Democrats have been very slightly less willing to identify themselves as completely patriotic while Republicans are screaming it from the mountaintops.

I'll hazard a guess: the pundit-despots of Coulter, O'Reilly, and Hannity (et. al.) have tried to link up the war, the President, and patriotism into one pretty little package. But while it hasn't affected Americans' views on the war, it has been useful in getting the faithful to scream along, "I'm no traitor, Ann--I'm a patriot just like you!" I hate to say it, but this is exactly what Bob Altermeyer predicted would happen based on his 30+ years of studying authoritarianism. He calls people who are willing to toe the line in this manner "prefascist." And it's why Dean and Kucinich have found such receptive crowds: a lot of Americans have quietly gotten the heebie-jeebies over this traitor/patriotism talk.

posted by Jeff | 3:35 PM |
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