It Takes One To Know Who's Not One (And Who's An Extremist On The Other Side)

May 04, 2012, 2:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 4/28/2012) You might think Mitt Romney’s base problem can be boiled down to one statistic from the Economist/YouGov poll: Only 41% of conservatives rate Romney a conservative (and only 5% of conservatives rate him very conservative). That raises the question: Does it take one to know who is not one?

After all, on the other side, only 43% of liberals rate President Obama liberal (just 8% of liberals rate him very liberal). Maybe ideologues on both sides are getting gun shy about the public relations problems candidates face by being associated with them. Rather than claiming a candidate as one of us, they seek to offer the candidate plausible deniability by being a little standoff-ish when it comes to associating a friendly candidate with the ideological views they claim for themselves.

Romney may have no problem keeping the faithful in line, because they appreciate the increase in electability he gains when he is perceived as less than a true believer. The same is mirrored on the other side between Obama and his liberal base.

Moderates are as likely to rate Obama a liberal (44% of moderates label Obama a liberal) as liberals are, and moderates are more likely to rate Romney a conservative (54%) than are conservatives. In each case, it is the ideologues in the opposite camp who are more likely to put the “very” label on the other camp’s favorite: 30% of liberals say Romney is very conservative, and a whopping 70% of conservatives label Obama very liberal.

So after all, it seems it takes one to call one’s opposite number an extreme member of that other ideological tribe—it takes one who is not one to know one who is in the extreme.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here

Photo source: Press Association