Thursday, November 19, 2009

Conspiracy Theories Abound in the Modern GOP

A new PPP poll asked voters whether they believed Barack Obama actually won the 2008 presidential election, or whether "ACORN stole it for him." 62% of voters think Obama legitimately won, versus 26% for the ACORN conspiracy theory.
Among Republicans, however, only 27% say Obama actually won the race, with 52% -- an outright majority -- saying that ACORN stole it, and 21% are undecided. Among McCain voters, the breakdown is 31%-49%-20%. By comparison, independents weigh in at 72%-18%-10%, and Democrats are 86%-9%-4%.

As TPM and Matt Yglesias point out, the comparison to Democratic discontent over Florida in 2000 doesn't really hold -- not just because the difference in the magnitude (less than 600 votes in Florida, versus a 9.5 million vote edge for Obama nationwide), but also because the Florida controversy stemmed from a well-observed and legitimately disputed controversy over how to count imperfect ballots (butterflies, hanging chads, the whole she-bang).*

Meanwhile, Research 2000 put a poll in the field showing right-wing star Marco Rubio surging against wildly popular (statewide, anyway) but moderate Governor Charlie Crist in a GOP primary for the Senate seat -- showing a whopping net 43 point improvement from the last R2K poll. And this is with Rubio at only 50% name ID and with no money spent on advertising yet.

The poll also asked GOP voters whether they believed Obama was born in the US. Only 35% said yes (29% no, 36% not sure). Break that down for Crist and Rubio voters, and a distinct pattern emerges. 73% of Republicans who believe Obama was born in the US go for the more moderate Crist, with only 16% for Rubio. Among birthers, it flips to 31% for Crist and 54% for Rubio. There is, in other words, a pretty clear linkage between the resurgent conservative base currently driving the party and adherence to some pretty ridiculous conspiracy theories about the President. Sayeth Kevin Drum:
This is craziness. I could understand 10 or 15% believing this. That's sort of the base level of people who will believe any nutty idea. But 52%? Someone in the GOP needs to take a deep breath and a long look in the mirror, and then try to rescue their party. Condoning insanity is not a long-term electoral strategy.

This is 9/11 trutherism turned into a legitimate political force. It's a scary thing to behold.

* My own feeling about Florida is that I believe more people in the state filled out a ballot believing they had cast a vote for Al Gore. Whether there was any fair or manageable standard for counting ballots that could have reflected that decision is unknowable, however. The Washington Post's re-recount indicates that Gore's own litigation strategy would have caused him to lose, but a recount of all ballots statewide would have given him the winning edge.


Luci said...

Who in the world ARE these people? 52% really think he stole the election? I'm flabbergasted by that number. Perhaps there should be two Republican parties: the Karl Rove-esque party of the 52%, and the thinking party of the 27%.

My feeling about Florida ... is that we should give it back to Spain.

PG said...

Can't one both think that Obama won the presidency AND that in some precincts, ACORN did stuff that fudged the totals? This was not a well-designed poll (unsurprising, since it was a partisan one).