Saturday, May 16, 2015

Opinions Populism could divide the Grand Old Party

If Republicans are baffled by Hillary Clinton’s persistent lead in the polls despite months of bad publicity, they need only examine the tensions on display in their party over the past few days.

It would be hard to conceive of a worse stretch for Clinton than a period that began with scrutiny of her use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state and moved to saturation coverage of the Clinton Foundation’s fundraising. Let’s stipulate first that her trustworthiness has taken a hit. In addition, it should always be said that polls this early are not predictive of next year’s election and that Clinton’s nearly universal name recognition helps her numbers.

Nonetheless, there was the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Monday, showing Clinton ahead of both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio by six points, Scott Walker by 10 and Rand Paul by three.

The New York Times/CBS News poll, released a day later, showed what the GOP is up against: Only 29 percent of Americans had a favorable view of the Republican Party, while 43 percent had a positive view of the Democrats. 

The survey also documented a steady but little-noticed trend: Americans are becoming less conservative. In the fall of 2010, the Times/CBS poll found, there were twice as many self-described conservatives as liberals: 19 percent of Americans called themselves liberal, 38 percent called themselves conservative. In the latest poll, liberals stood at 25 percent, conservatives at 33 percent. In less than five years, a 19-point margin has shrunk to eight points.

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