Monday, September 21, 2009

Polls, Values and Marriage

Polls, Values and Marriage

A slew of polls over the weekend with implications for 2010 and 2012.

Nationally, the big news was out of the Value Voters' summit where 2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee scored a good-sized plurality win:
Huckabee took 28.48 percent of the vote, while Romney was in a four-way tie for second place with Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence. All four won 12 percent of the vote in rounded numbers.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich placed fifth. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and the "undecided" option finished with less than 4 percent each.

My take-away from this remains the same as it was in late 2007: Mitt Romney's religion gets him vetoed by the fundamentalists. But Huck's economic populism will get him vetoed by the money boys in the GOP. Look for them to line up early with... Pawlenty.

Republicans, of course, always nominate whoever's Turn it is next. Question is, who gets credit for the Turn? Romney, who was running consistent second to McCain in the primaries before dropping out and getting on board? Huckabee, who stayed in the race past the point of mathematical elimination and thus technically came in second? Or VP nominee Palin?

But Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight says another poll at the conference is more significant: the ranking of issues. Abortion was way out front at 41 percent of the vote, with "protection of religious liberty" (the religious right has an eternal persecution fantasy, remember the "war on Christmas?") second at 18 percent. Opposition to same-sex marriage was third at 7 percent.

Silver finds that third place significant: "The last time this poll was conducted, in October 2007, gay marriage was the top choice of 20 percent of the attendees. That's quite a decline, particularly given that gay marriage has been more in the news than abortion for the past couple of years."

Marriage equality was on the mind of Des Moines Register pollsters who see an even split: 41 percent opposed, 40 percent supportive. The opposition has stronger feelings, but most interesting:
The overwhelming majority of Iowans - 92 percent - say gay marriage has brought no real change to their lives.

Sixty-three percent say candidates' stands on other issues will be more important in making their decisions in the 2010 elections.

Ask State Rep. Steve Burgmaier how well gay marriage plays as an issue. Oh, wait, that's right. Burgmaier lost that special election to Curt Hanson, despite marriage equality opponents throwing everything they had at Hanson.

Another interesting Iowa Poll tidbit is the approval ratings on our U.S. Senators:
Approval for Grassley dipped to 57 percent in the survey taken last week, having stood at 75 percent in the Register’s January poll and 66 percent in April... Harkin’s approval, 55 percent in the new poll, has fallen 15 percentage points since January and 4 since April. It is his lowest since he joined the Senate in 1985.

That's not great news for Harkin, but of course he just got re-elected and there's a hard core of Iowans who just plain will never support him. Witness the 37 percent for invisible Republican candidate Christopher "Not Tom Harkin" Reed.

But what's interesting is that Grassley, who has won his last three terms with somewhere around 70 percent, is only two points ahead of Harkin. He's been suddenly, through seniority and default, been thrust into a position as a national Republican leader, at a time when the Republican brand is at its weakest since Goldwater.

As for governor, it's good for Terry, not so much for Chet. But what matters most is what's missing: crosstabs by party. Most voters don't know enough about Bob Vander Plaats to offer an opinion, but I'll bet most Republican primary voters do.

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