Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it is the case that the number of Americans willing to directly identify with the Republican Party is reaching historic lows. The Pollster.com rolling average of GOP party identification now stands at 22 percent and has been declining fairly steadily for the last several years. The latest poll from Pew Research Center — perhaps the most reliable of all pollsters — has the GOP down to only 19 percent identification:
What’s going on? President Obama’s approval rating has been declining and is now “underwater” (higher disapproval than approval). The GOP, of course, has been single-mindedly dedicated to opposing him. They are particularly committed to opposing Obamacare, which on the surface seems like an even juicier target, averaging just 40 percent approval in recent polls. Indeed, they are so dedicated they have voted 40 times to repeal it and now are threatening to shut down the government unless the program is defunded. You’d think that beating up on these not-so-popular targets would yield more, not less, identification with the GOP. Where’s the love?
Maybe they’re placing their bets on the wrong horse, especially when it comes to Obamacare. Start with the fact that roughly a third of the opposition to Obamacare stems from the view that the program isn’t liberal enough rather than too liberal. That doesn’t fit with the GOP’s blow-it-up paradigm. Nor do recent polls that show an average of only 35 percent saying they want to repeal Obamacare as opposed to keeping it as is or with changes.
A recent Hart Research/SEIU poll on voter attitudes toward the ACA makes the point even more clearly. As Hart Research puts in in their memo on the poll:
Voters feel intensely negative toward Republican candidates who have worked to repeal or undermine the law, especially those who are unwilling to help their constituents take advantage of the benefits and protections available to them under the ACA….Seventy-one percent of voters express unfavorable feelings toward “a Republican who, as an elected official, refuses to help individuals and small businesses understand how best to deal with Obamacare and take advantage of its benefits.”….Two-thirds of all voters (including 60% of undecided voters) have an unfavorable impression of “a Republican who repeatedly voted to cut the funding needed to effectively implement the law, and refuses to provide information to employers and individuals about it.”
No wonder the GOP’s anti-Obamacare shenanigans aren’t helping their brand with the public. The point is underscored by another finding from the Hart survey:
Our generic congressional trial heat shows a relatively narrow, three-point advantage for Democratic candidates (44%) over Republicans (41%) nationwide. However, when the choice in the 2014 election is presented as “a Democrat who favors fixing and improving Obamacare rather than repealing it altogether” versus “a Republican who wants to totally repeal Obamacare,” voters favor the Democratic candidate (51%) over the Republican candidate (36%) by 15 percentage points.
Thus it would appear that the more the GOP pursues their anti-Obamacare crusade, the more damage they do to themselves. Indeed, when combined with their destructive opposition to immigration reform, popular gun regulations, and any expanded efforts to revive the economy, it’s hard to think of a group of voters they could alienate who they haven’t. That’s why we see their party identification hitting 20 percent or below. If Republicans ever want to see their party identification climb back up to respectable levels, instead of sinking slowly in the west, they’d be well-advised to re-think their current strategy, especially their obsession with repealing Obamacare.