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Inside the GOP, a report from Democracy Corps

October 4, 2013

I was wondering what a lot of other people were wondering yesterday. Namely why, if Republicans were claiming their party was being hijacked by a small minority of Tea Party lunatics, did they actually have a majority vote for closing down the government? It’s a statistical conundrum.

A fascinating report entitled Inside the GOP: Report on focus groups with Evangelical, Tea Party, and moderate Republicans explains that to me. It was put out by Democracy Corps, a non-profit Democratic strategy think tank co-founded by Stan Greenberg, and it explains the current mindset of different factions of the Republican Party, inferred from focus groups made up of three types of Republicans: Evangelicals (55%), moderates (25%), and Tea Partiers (20%).

You should read the whole thing, because it’s absolutely fascinating, but I think the explanation of the above-mentioned statistical conundrum is as follows: Tea Partiers are minority, but the largest group, namely the Evangelicals (think Fox News, anti-gay marriage) are behind the Tea Party’s agenda on the Affordable Care Act as well as Obamacare, and together they represent the majority of the Republican Party. Maybe you knew this but I didn’t.

Other things this report brings up:

  • how deeply race matters to Evangelicals, especially when it comes to Obamacare,
  • how tenuous the alliance is between Tea Party Republicans and Evangelicals, considering Tea Partiers don’t care about social issues like gay marriage and Evangelicals deeply care, and
  • just how much Fox News matters in this world.
Categories: news
  1. October 4, 2013 at 8:40 am

    I don’t see how they could interview all these people and not hear about how important talk radio is to them. All of their rhetoric comes from Hannity, Limbaugh, Levin, Beck, Jones, and the rest of the insane clown posse. All they would have to ask is “Where do you get your news?” Otherwise their findings are spot on.


  2. Josh
    October 4, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Thanks. It’s interesting and maybe true. I am puzzled by the same thing. Why are the non-Tea-Party republicans letting this happen.

    Seems like a lot to read into discussions with perhaps 100 people in 3 cities and very broad generalizations.

    I think concerns of moderate Republicans about being ousted in primaries has a lot to do with it, too.


    • October 6, 2013 at 10:15 am

      What, you think Democratic hacks James Carville and Stan Greenberg might be reading too much into their study, maybe finessing their data? But why would they do that?

      Here’s what they write about their own work: “Through this new wave of research, we aim to help the White House and Democrats get back on the offensive. In the Civil War, General Meade did not pursue General Lee after Gettysburg and let the Confederate Army escape — extending the war two years. Unlike Meade, Democrats must pursue and push back against a Republican Party increasingly out of touch with majority America.”


      So I’d take their results with a grain of salt. Maybe an entire shakerful.


  3. tdhawkes
    October 4, 2013 at 11:55 am

    In this culture, winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing (hence Lance Armstrong and his ilk). The Republicans ran out of ideas that appealed to the People of this country decades ago. So, they have substituted inflammatory rhetoric, lies, dirty tricks, and diversionary tactics to win. Yes, their media are part of this picture (conservative talk radio, Fox News). People are easy to scare and inflame. However, over the long haul that has a half-life and a very high cost to the groups who use these tactics. If the Republicans want to survive as a party, they need to develop good ideas and reasonable ways to communicate them to this country. As a People, we need to demand that our elected officials be smart, professional, and committed to the good of the whole country, not just the people voting for them personally, and certainly not for those who bankroll them.


  4. Josh
    October 4, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    That is a very interesting study, thanks so much for highlighting it. The expressions of isolation and relief at connecting with people who have similar opinions supports the hypothesis of why Fox News is such an effective product.

    I hypothesize that the budget debacle and upcoming debt ceiling debate signal the official end of the Republican Party as a national voice in American politics. I do feel a bit sorry for the moderate republicans, since the rest of their party doesn’t want them and the Democrats don’t need them. Maybe they can all cluster together (MA?) to find a place where they’ll be welcome.


  5. Kari Doucette
    October 5, 2013 at 10:59 am

    The comfort that comes with being surrounded by like-minded people was evident in the discussions described in this report. It also highlights the importance of re-districting–so many Tea Party elected officials come from districts that have been rigged to contain only Tea Party supporters. This allows politicians to be comfortable spouting what sounds like nonsense to the majority of the country, but is Gospel Truth in their districts, and will get them re-elected.


    • Andreas Goroch
      October 8, 2013 at 7:08 pm

      It was interesting to hear that moderate women expressed surprise that other people thought like they did on social justice and women’s issues. I wonder if part of the TP/Evangelicals are better at creating a sense of like-mindedness


  6. linda amick
    October 6, 2013 at 9:44 am

    The whole dem/repub dichotomy is false. Leadership in both parties are beholden to Rich Corporations and their elite leaders ONLY. There is NO representation of the majority of Americans in either party.


    • October 7, 2013 at 5:47 am

      While that may be true in the main, which I agree, that doesn’t mean the rank-and-file of the two parties are the same. The GOP has played a brutal game over the past 30 years by stringing together the libertarians and evangelicals, who at their respective hearts, don’t want the same things at all. Evangelicals ultimately want a theocracy, a society structured on God’s law. Libertarians often seem to want something akin to anarchy.

      The GOP has held them together, along with the moderate (really corporatist) leg of the triad by a common appeal to the hatred of the federal government. Of course, the corporatist wing has no intention of shrinking the government, since it wants to tie the police and taxing powers of the government into corporate businesses and generally sell to the government, but they can rile the other two groups by blaming the Democrats for the failure of the government to shrink. For their part, the Dems. play the role of trying to save the country from the GOP while quietly siding with the corporatist wing on most issues.


  7. October 7, 2013 at 5:50 am

    Just an observation: Adding up the proportions of the three focus groups 33%(E), 20%(T), and 25%(M) gives about 78% (perhaps more like 80% or so when you consider the rounding mentioned in the article). That’s not quite the same as the claim that the focus groups represent practically all of the GOP, although it’s reasonably close.


  1. October 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm
  2. October 6, 2013 at 5:07 am
  3. October 8, 2013 at 4:54 pm
  4. October 9, 2013 at 8:02 am
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