Written by . Posted in Polling

Published on January 28, 2013

Harper Polling asked a national audience nine critical questions. We added our analysis after each question to give you more insight:

Generic Republican Primary Ballot (Republicans Only)

Question:

In a Republican primary election, would you vote for the party-backed candidate who is more electable or the tea party conservative candidate?

Electable Republican: 43%
Tea Party Conservative: 34%
Not sure: 23%

This poll shows a slight advantage for party-backed candidates who emphasize electability over candidates who are avowed movement conservatives.

Men and women have a pretty strong difference of opinion.  Women favor the party’s candidate over the conservative 47%-26%.  Men are evenly split (40%-41%).

The critical split in opinion is between the Very Conservative and Somewhat Conservative.  The Very Conservative favor the tea party conservative (52%-29%) while the Somewhat Conservative chose the party-backed Republican (50%-26%).

This is a question worth tracking because of the insight it will provide into the motivations of Republican voters.  Following the loss to President Obama, you might wonder whether the electability argument is coursing more strongly through GOP veins.

Picking Favorites in GOP Primaries (Republicans Only)

Question:

Which of the following comes closest to your opinion about Republican Party politics: Party leaders in Washington should play favorites in primary elections because voters often chose candidates that are too extreme to win, Or Party leaders should stay out of primary elections even if they risk losing to Democrats.

Play in primaries: 34%
Stay out of primaries: 34%
Not sure: 33%

Republicans could not be more evenly divided.  A third for each side.   And a third undecided.  The issue is one of significant consequence in the Senate.  Some blame the GOP’s inability to retake the majority on candidates they consider too far right to win a general election.  Others point to losses by party-backed candidates as evidence that primaries are not what plagues the GOP.

Interestingly, Republicans in the Northeast (41%-33%) are most opposed to the party getting involved in primaries.  The Midwest most favors playing in primaries (39%-32%).

A full 42% of women are undecided, while men are slightly more opposed (36%-40%) to party involvement in primaries.  The Very Conservative agree (38%-34%).

How’s Obama Doing Lately?

This is a variation on the standard presidential job approval question.  It asks for more current opinions about the personal impact of President Obama’s actions in office.

Question:

Is President Obama making things in this country lately, better or worse?

Better: 42%
Worse: 46%
About the same: 12%

This poll was taken the day after President Obama’s inauguration speech that was laced with progressive ideology.  It may have dimmed the outlook of some middle-of-the-road voters.  For someone who was just re-elected with 51% of the vote, only 42% of the people believe Barack Obama is making the country better off.

In the Northeast, 45% believe the President is making things better as opposed to 39% who say worse.  Southerners say he’s making it worse by a 51%-40% spread.

There is a significant gender gap.  Women say Better (46%-40%) and Men say Worse (52%-37%).  The demographic most supportive of the President are 56-to-65 year olds approaching retirement who say Better by a 52%-38% spread.

Should GOP Compromise with Obama?

Public opinion on this issue will impact the shape of important deals struck on Capitol Hill for at least two years to come.  Obama’s re-election was an impressive feat given the economic conditions in the country.   Should it be interpreted as a mandate for Republicans give Obama more of what he wants in his second term?

Question:

Do you agree or disagree that since losing the election Republicans should compromise more often with President Obama in his second term?

Agree: 49%
Disagree: 38%
Not sure: 13%

Almost half (49%) of voters agree.  Northeasterners back compromise the most at 57%, followed by Women at 54%.  Men are split 44%-44%.

Democrats are more convinced that Republicans should compromise (84%) than Republicans are convinced that they should not compromise (74%).

As the President seeks passage of his second term agenda, we will track this question to see if the reality of the President’s policies moves these numbers.

Kennedy Assassination

Last week, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.  criticized the findings of the Warren Commission’s official account of his uncle’s assassination.  He claimed his father, the President’s brother, called the Commission a “shoddy piece of craftsmanship” and was himself convinced others were involved beyond Lee Harvey Oswald.

Since every voting-age American has written a school report on President Kennedy’s assassination, we thought we’d survey an educated audience.

Question:

Regarding the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, do you believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, or others helped Oswald plan and carry out the assassination?

Oswald acted alone: 25%
Oswald had help: 45%
Not sure: 31%

It’s pretty remarkable that only a quarter (25%) of the people believe the central finding of the Warren Commission.  Nearly twice as many people (45%) believe there was a conspiracy to assassinate our 35th President.

There is not a lot of variation in the numbers.  Though Kennedy was a Democrat, voters of his party (45%) are no more likely than Republicans (45%) to buy the single bullet theory.

Self-avowed Liberals are the most likely to believe that Oswald acted alone (29%-38%).   Very Conservative voters are the most likely to believe that others helped Oswald (49%-22%).

The Kennedy assassination is one of the iconic debates in American society.  Over time, the silver bullet theory has not held up well in the minds of the public.  Whatever you believe, this 889-page legal document has no chance against JFK in the court of public opinion.

Armstrong: Forgive or Prosecute Him?

Lance Armstrong, the former greatest cyclist who ever was, has been on a publicity tour to confess to doping.  The reviews have not been great.  We wanted to put the question to the American public.  But more specifically, we focused on the legal hell that awaits Armstrong.

There’s a long line of people suing him for fraud and seeking money.  On the criminal side, he possibly faces prosecution for perjury.  We wanted to know whether the public is willing forgive Armstrong in the aftermath of his coming clean.  Or should he face the music.

Question:

As you may have heard, cyclist Lance Armstrong admitted to using illegal performance-enhancing drugs during his career.  Which of the following comes closest to your opinion: Armstrong should be forgiven for coming clean, or Armstrong should face the legal consequences of having lied under oath?

Forgive him: 16%
Prosecute him: 64%
Not sure: 20%

No mercy for Lance Armstrong.

All four regions of the country support his prosecution by no less than 60%.  There is no difference between the opinions of men and women on the issue.  People age 18-to-35 years old are the least hostile to Armstrong but they still favor holding him accountable at 56%.

Republicans (70%) take a firmer stand against Armstrong than Democrats (62%).  Those who consider themselves “Liberal” (66%) and “Very Conservative” (65%) at least agree on something.

You wonder what the motivation is for this kind of consesnsus.  Is it because they are defending the notion of justice or do people just really not like Lance Armstrong?

Manti Te’o: Hoax or Liar?

A story so bizarre that Americans can’t stop debating it.  Fortunately for Manti Te’o, he has not lost them yet.

Question:

As you may have heard, Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o revealed that the girlfriend he claimed died tragically never existed.  Which of the following comes closest to your opinion:  Te’o was the victim of an Internet hoax, Or Te’o made up the story?

Victim of a hoax: 33%
Made up the story: 30%
Not sure: 37%

Men and women have a slight difference of opinion.  Men are deadlocked at 32%-32%.  Women think Te’o was a victim (33%-27%).  Seniors are the demographic who most strongly believe it was a hoax (38%-26%).  Democrats take Te’o’s side (36%-28%) while Republicans are divided (33%-33%).

The sooner Te’o can put a bow on this affair and move on the better.  Get out before the 37% that’s undecided gets an opinion.  The guy’s got an NFL paycheck to cash.

Pass a Budget or No Pay for Congress

Question:

Do you support or oppose the plan to give Congress and the President three months to pass a meaningful budget or Congress will stop getting paid?

Support: 72%
Oppose: 11%

In a time of tough votes for House Republicans, this one was a no-brainer.  The measure is wildly popular across the board.  Democrats support the idea behind the Republican initiative 66%-14%.

The Very Conservative (73%-13%) and Liberal (65%-19%) alike found something they could agree on.   The public loves the notion that Washington must pass a budget or pay the price personally.

Defining Spending Cuts

When Republicans and Democrats are debating spending cuts, what do voters think they’re talking about cutting?

Question:

In politics, people talk about spending cuts.  Which of the follow three best describes what the term spending cuts means to you:  Cuts to wasteful spending in government, Cuts to social programs like Medicare and Social Security, or Cuts to our national defense?

Cuts to wasteful spending: 73%
Cuts to social programs: 11%
Cuts to defense: 9%

Reality couldn’t be further from perception here.  Wasteful spending is a drop in the bucket compared to entitlements and defense.  But not in the minds of voters.

Eighty-three percent of Republicans say wasteful spending and only 2% say defense.  Compare that to 14% of Democrats and 22% of Liberals who picture military cuts.

Voters will always tell you to cut the easy stuff.

Ideology

Question:

On political issues, do you consider yourself to be Very Conservative, Somewhat Conservative, Moderate or Liberal?

Very Conservative: 23%
Somewhat Conservative: 28%
Moderate: 31%
Liberal: 13%

Party Self-Identification

Democrat: 42.5%
Republican: 33.6%
Any other party: 18.9%

Age

18-35: 18%
36-45: 13%
46-55: 20%
56-65: 21%
66+: 28%

Gender

Female: 52%
Male: 48%

Regions

Northeast: 21%
Midwest: 24%
South: 32%
West: 23%

The sample size for this national survey is 1900 likely voters.  As a result of the large sample, the margin of error is +/-2.25%.  The poll was conducted January 22, 2013 by Harper Polling.

Click here to read the full toplines.
Click here to read the full crosstabs.

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