National Poll of Primary-Voting Republicans (Dec. 19, 2012)

Sample Size:                 2,746
    Margin of Error:             +/-1.87%

This national sample is comprised of registered or self-identified Republicans who voted in either the 2008, 2010, or 2012 primary elections.

The age and geographic models for the sample correspond with the distributions on the full file of primary-voting Republicans.

By Region:

Northeast         19%
Midwest            24%
South                39%
West                 18%

By Age:

18 to 35           5%
36 to 45           7%
 46 to 55          16%
 56 to 65          23%
 66+                 49%

The 36 to 45 year olds and 46 to 55 year olds are a combined 5% lighter than we wanted.  However, when those two age groups are weighted up, it does not alter the topline data.  The 66+ segment is 4% heavy.  Once again, when we weighted them down, it did not effect the numbers.  This does demonstrate how the age of the Republican primary voter skews older.

Polling the no-new-taxes pledge on the day Norquist budged


Do you agree or disagree that any political candidate who signs a pledge to not raise taxes should never violate that pledge under any circumstance facing the country?

Before I get to the results, which are mixed in my opinion, let’s address the question.  It is framed in a way that matches the present circumstance regarding the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) pledge.  To be clear, I am not exploring the intellectual debate over the no-new-taxes pledge.

The “grand bargain” types will gripe that we did not ask about raising taxes specifically on the rich.  And they’re right to complain.  That’s a better representation of the situation at hand in Washington.

However, we already know from extensive public polling that voters are increasingly supportive of raising taxes on the rich.  There’s a poll every day on it.  And lots of ink is spilled about a poll that said the same thing as yesterday’s and probably tomorrow’s.

Pledge supporters will complain that we asked the question in such absolute terms.  But that is the thing about the ATR pledge.  There are no exceptions. Until Wednesday; when this poll was taken.  And when ATR President Grover Norquist showed some flexibility, as we inch closer to the fiscal cliff.

To the data:

                 Never violate the pledge            47%
                 Okay to violate the pledge         36%
                 Not sure                                       17%

If I’m a Pledger, I like that nearly half of Republicans (47%) share my position even though the pledge itself is under heavy fire.  They are more than fine with no exceptions to the pledge.

If I’m a Grand Bargainer, I feared the pledge would score a number with a seven as the first digit.  We are talking to base Republicans here.  A full 58% support (are NOT “members” of) the TEA party and 80% watch Fox News. In that context, the numbers are encouraging they'll say.

Interestingly, there are no geographic disparities in the data.  Support for the pledge ranged from 45-48% across all four regions of the country.  The two youngest age groups give the pledge its highest scores at 54% among 18 to 35 year olds and 51% among 36 to 45 year olds.

Men are both 3% more likely to support the pledge AND 5% more likely to allow exceptions to the pledge.  What that really means is that women are 8% more likely to be undecided on the issue.

Allen West and Rand Paul voters in a hypothetical 2016 primary are the strongest supporters of the pledge at 62% and 60% respectively.  Chris Christie and Condi Rice voters are the most open to exceptions at 44% and 40% respectively.

While there is some good news and some bad news here for both sides, what’s interesting is that this is the last poll taken while the no-new-taxes pledge was an absolute.  From now on, the question will need to be slightly altered.

Clinton, Taxes and the Roaring 90's


Would you support or oppose returning income tax rates to the same levels as when President Clinton was in office?

We asked this question for a couple of reasons.  First, it is an often-used Democratic talking point, which means it’s been poll-tested and performs reasonably well.  No one knows what the rates were then but the 1990s was a decade of prosperity in most people’s minds.

The second reason is because it’s got Bill Clinton in it.  The Michael Jordan of his generation is one of the world’s most popular public figures.  But we are polling primary-voting Republicans here.  So I wanted to see if the popularity of Clinton’s 1990s held strong even with Republicans who have a history with the guy.

            Support Clinton tax rates                        32%
            Oppose Clinton tax rates                        35%
            Not sure                                                     33%

Well, Republican voters are unmoved by Bubba.  The Roaring 90’s was great and all, but you’re asking base Republicans if they trust Bill Clinton.  That’s a big ask.  And then you make the issue that which is near and dear to Republicans’ hearts: taxes.

A full 68% of Republicans find this message to be unpersuasive with 35% outright opposed and 33% unconvinced.

Fox News does not rough up Bill Clinton very often and it shows in the data.  Both Fox and non-Fox watchers support Clinton-era tax rates at a mere 32%.  No difference.

It is a different story for TEA party supporters who are decidedly more opposed to Clinton-era tax rates by a margin of 42% to 33%.  Non-TEA party supporters are one of the only demographic groups that are more likely to support Clinton-era tax rates than oppose them by a spread of 40% to 28%.

It’s worth noting that a Democrat might look at this and see that roughly a third of base Republicans support a core Democratic message.  Then extrapolate that it tests off the charts with independents and swing voters.  Perhaps.

Compromise Isn't a Dirty Word with GOPers


Do you believe it is better or worse for the country when the two political parties reach a compromise?

Compromise.  A word as old as politics itself I’m sure.  The scent of compromise gets the media asking Members of Congress about potential primaries back home.  An old foe from the legislature shows up at Rotary and makes an impassioned speech about backbones.  Letters to the editor in the local newspaper pick up, which all get circulated in the morning clips.  The staff is on eggshells around the Member -- when they’re not updating their resumes.  That is, of course, dramatized for effect.  But it is safe to say that compromising with the other side brings political headaches.

            Better for the country            66%
            Worse for the country           19%
            Not sure                                   15%

But it appears that compromise is not a dirty word with base Republicans.  A full 65% say it is better for the country and only 19% say it is worse.

Compromise is viewed most favorably in the Northeast at 70%, among Chris Christie voters at 79% and among women at 69%.

Compromise is viewed as worse for the country at its highest levels in the South at 21%, among Allen West voters at 47% and among men at 25%.

Couldn't resist: A GOP '16 primary ballot


Thinking back to the Presidential election, would you agree or disagree that the media was overly critical of Mitt Romney?

I broke down and did a 2016 Republican presidential primary ballot test.  I tried hard to resist the urge.  For one thing, it means I lied to a reporter, which I make it a habit of never doing.  Alex Burns of POLITICO no less.  I want Harper Polling to be as much about the strategic messaging that wins the day, as who’s winning today.

The results:

Marco Rubio                    34%
Chris Christie                   18%
Condi Rice                       14%
Rand Paul                         8%
Allen West                        5%
Scott Brown                      3%
Undecided                        18%

Nonetheless, I’m glad I did because the numbers are interesting.  To start, Rubio’s 34% was surprising.  Although, it seems to jibe with Wednesday’s Farleigh-Dickinson poll that showed Christie and Rubio with the best image ratings among Republicans.   I’m not sure what the sample frame was for Republicans in that poll.  Ours is based on a verifiable history of voting in primaries.

Rubio is strongest in the South and West.  There’s some logic in that.  He’s a son of the South, for those who count Florida as the South.  The Hispanic appeal may run a bit stronger out West.  In the Northeast, he and Christie run virtually tied at 29-27%.  The Midwest may ultimately be the harder nut to crack for Rubio.   His working class background may be his strongest connection to the industrial Midwest.

The Chris Christie primary voter appears to lean more toward the middle.  Along with Condi Rice, his voters are more likely to support exceptions to the no-new-taxes pledge and they believe that compromise is better for the country.  They are less likely to watch Fox News and support TEA party goals.

Speaking of the TEA party.  It is the foundation of Rubio’s support.  Approaching half of all TEA supporters (43%) are voting for him.  If I’m one of the other guys, it can’t stay that way.  Somebody has to eat away at that base for Rubio.

Rice and Scott Brown are the only candidates who do better among women than men.  We threw Brown in the mix to see if his historic 2011 special election victory had any bite with GOP primary voters.

As for, ‘why Allen West?’.  He has one of the most profitable grassroots followings in the party and the force of personality that could make him relevant when the cameras come on.  But no groundswell of support at this time.

I obviously left some big names off this ballot test.  Among others, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, for which Brad Todd of OnMessage will surely let me know about.

But polling is a laboratory and these were the mice we chose.

UPDATE: We've been asked why we did not include Paul Ryan.  "I thought you were a House guy!"  As a function of being on the national ticket (just a few weeks ago) and the universal name identification that it brings, Ryan's numbers are a bit misleading.  A false positive of sorts.  Take him out of the equation and you get a better look at how Rubio, Christie, and Paul are positioned against one another.

The ONE thing they all agreed on


Thinking back to the presidential election, would you agree or disagree that the media was overly critical of Mitt Romney?

The GOP narrative after the 2008 election was that the media played point guard for Team Obama.  

In the aftermath of November’s presidential election, there has been less focus on the media’s role in the 2012 campaign.  Do Republicans feel that their guy got a fair deal from the press this time?

Overly critical             88%
Not overly critical       7%
Not sure                       5%

No.  This is the most consistently held opinion in the entire poll.  Some liked compromise and some did not, some liked the Norquist pledge and some did not, but almost all agreed that the media treated their candidate for President unfairly.

Statistically, it's remarkable to find an attitudinal question like this one with such uniformity of opinion across a sample of 2,746 people.

We could go through the cross tabs but there's really no point.  The first digit of every number starts with an eight.  There are no soft spots in the data.  Anywhere.

Whether this is all the work of Limbaugh, Beck, and Fox News, or there's some basis in truth is someone else's job to debate.  But it's fair to say that it points to a future of purely partisan media.  This poll shows that many believe we are already there.

Our only opinion expressed here is that that shouldn't be the case.

As for the overtly partisan outlets on both sides and the ravenous political types like POLITICO

You guys are awesome.  Keep it up.

Demographic Questions


Do you watch Fox News?
Yes       80%
No        20%


Do you support the goals of the TEA party movement?
Yes            58%
No              13%
Not sure     29%

Are you a man or a woman?
Man              48%
Woman         52%
Please click the link below to view the full crosstabs for our December 19th, 2012 National Poll of Primary-Voting Republicans.