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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Return of the Cognitive Madisonians


In 1994, 2006, and 2010, there was widespread voter concern that one-party control of government was having bad effects, and voters opted for divided government.  Some voters are what Everett Carll Ladd called "cognitive Madisonians."  Even if they never read The Federalist, the idea of checks and balances affects their vote choice.

Perhaps the strongest argument the GOP made on “Meet” was this: Republicans in control of Congress will be a check and balance on the Obama White House. “I think what people are looking for … are checks and balances,” Cornyn said. “They've had single party government, and it's scaring the living daylights out of them.” As it turns out, our NBC/WSJ poll from May showed a whopping 62% preferring different parties controlling the White House and Congress. And as National Journal’s Ron Brownstein noted in his Friday column, that preference has played out over the last 40 years. “Since 1968, neither party has simultaneously controlled the White House and Congress for more than four consecutive years.” The "check" argument is most powerful with indie voters, who personally may have a favorable opinion of the president but have been disappointed in his policies. The "check" allows Republicans to make the pitch to a voter who isn't ready to give up on Obama's presidency but wants to send him a message.
Republicans have made clear they plan to run close to President Donald Trump in the campaign for November’s midterm elections, believing his ability to energize the Republican base is the only way to offset a blue wave of enthusiastic Democratic voters.

A new poll from a coalition of Democratic groups casts doubt on that strategy, showing the GOP will suffer as campaigns center around the president’s personality and record, and Democrats portray Republicans as Trump’s servants.

The survey of likely voters from Navigator Research, conducted by the Global Strategy Group, found Democrats had a 8-point lead on a generic ballot for Congress, 45 percent to 37 percent.

The Democratic lead grows, however, when the battle for Congress is framed as a referendum on the president. Asked if they would prefer a Democrat who mostly opposes Trump or a Republican who mostly supports him, 52 percent picked the Democrat, and 39 percent choose the Republican.

When presented with a Democrat who will be a “check and balance” on Trump against a Republican who will help Trump pass his agenda, Democrats led 50 percent to 38 percent.

The polling memo recommended the “check and balance” language, saying it is less likely to repel white voters without a college degree and voters who live in small towns and rural areas.