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The November Battleground Poll and America

By Bruce Walker
web posted January 10, 2005

I have written often about the one public opinion poll which has proven most reliable and which has provided a hidden, but vital, bit of information about America: the Battleground Poll. This poll is one of the few which are the collaboration of two partisan polling organizations, in this case a Republican polling organization, The Tarrance Group, and a Democrat polling organization, Lake, Snell, Perry and Associates.

This collaboration provides a double safeguard of reliability. Polling organizations, over the long run, want to be accurate - this is true even if they have an agenda. Who believes polls which are wrong? But the short term interests of partisan clients tends to make even objective minds biased. Because the Battleground Poll is a long term process and because it has equal input from polling organizations with an avowedly partisan affiliation, the results tend to be very, very good.

How good? In 2004, it was very good indeed. The last Battleground Poll projected that President Bush would get 51.2 per cent of the vote (he got 51.1 per cent of the vote) and that Senator Kerry would get 47.8 per cent of the vote (he got 47.9 per cent of the vote.) The 2000 Battleground Poll projected that then-Governor Bush would get 49 per cent of the vote and then-Vice President Gore would get 47 per cent of the vote. That very close prediction was the worst of a very good run.

In 1996, the Battleground Poll projected that Bill Clinton would get 49 per cent of the vote (he got 49.2 per cent of the vote); that Bob Dole would get 40 per cent of the vote (he got 40.7 per cent of the vote); and that Ross Perot would get 9 per cent of the vote (he got 8.4 per cent of the vote.) In 1992, the Battleground Poll projected that Bill Clinton would get 43 per cent of the vote (he got 43.0 per cent of the vote - right on the money); it projected that George H. Bush would get 37 per cent of the vote (he got 37.4 per cent of the vote); and it projected that Ross Perot would get 19 per cent of the vote (he got 18.9 per cent of the vote.)

Not only is the Battleground Poll the most accurate poll of the many spewed out almost daily during election season, but it does something very useful: it provides audiences with all the questions asked and all the answers. These internals have been the reason why I have written about the Battleground Poll so often over the last several years. The internals explain why Democrats ought to be profoundly worried about the position and the direction of their party.

Question D3 is the same question that appears in the internals of every Battleground Poll. The list is read and it is rotated to prevent bias. In August 2004, sixty percent of Americans considered themselves "very conservative" or "somewhat conservative" while only thirty-five percent considered themselves "very liberal" or "somewhat liberal." In September 2003, fifty-nine percent of Americans considered themselves "very conservative" or "somewhat conservative" while only thirty-five percent of Americans considered themselves "very liberal" or "somewhat liberal." The three prior Battleground Poll results showed a similar gap between conservatives and liberals.

What did the responses to Question D34 before the November 2004 election show? Sixty percent of Americans considered themselves either "very conservative" or "somewhat conservative" while only thirty-three percent of Americans considered themselves "very liberal" or "somewhat liberal." The gap persists over polls and over years, and more: the gap is actually widening.

What ought to concern Democrats is that the number of Americans who self-identify as "very conservative" has risen steadily from fifteen percent before the November 2002 election to seventeen percent in September 2003 to twenty percent before the November 2004 election, even as the number of conservatives has remained at fifty-nine or sixty percent of the population.

The number of people who consider themselves "very liberal," by contrast, is a meager eight percent. What does this mean? Not only is the gap between self-identified conservatives and liberals widened over the last several years, but the conservatives have become more conservative while the liberals have become less liberal.

And what does that mean? It means that the "middle" of American politics, which is actually somewhere in the realm of "moderate conservative" is moving farther to the Right, toward a more robust and unapologetic conservatism. It means that simply being a liberal is, more and more, synonymous with being an extremist. It means that conservatives and other normal people are no longer intimidated by the tight faced, menacing glares of the establishment Left, the shrinking Left, the vanishing Left.

Bruce Walker is a contributing editor with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

 

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