A voter marks a ballot for the New Hampshire primary inside a voting booth at a polling place, Feb. 9, 2016, in Manchester, N.H.
Photo by David Goldman/AP

The power of GOP partisanship captured in new polling

Republican voters opposed bombing the Assad regime in Syria, until Donald Trump took office, at which point they changed their mind. GOP voters thought the American economy was awful, until a Republican became president, at which point they suddenly reversed course.

And Gallup reported late last week that Republican voters had deeply negative attitudes about the current U.S. tax system, right before they changed their minds in early 2017.
With the deadline to file federal income taxes looming, 61% of U.S. adults regard the income tax they have to pay as fair, the most positive sentiment since 2009. A year ago, 50% held this view, which is lower than all but one other reading in Gallup’s trend. […]

Republicans are mostly responsible for the variation in perceived income tax fairness over time.
According to Gallup’s data, 39% of GOP voters said last year that the amount of money they paid in income taxes was fair. This year, that number among Republicans jumped to 56%.

It’s important to note that income taxes have not changed. We’re talking about perceptions: when Obama was in office, most GOP voters thought tax rates were unfair, and with Trump now in office, these same voters have decided they’re satisfied with those same tax rates after all.

Under the traditional rules of the political discourse, in which both sides are always to blame in equal measure, this is supposed to be the part in which we acknowledge that Democratic voters are just as unprincipled as Republican voters, just in the opposite direction. Except, that’s quantifiably wrong: on tax fairness, Gallup found Democratic attitudes have been quite steady for many years, and didn’t change much at all after Trump took office. The same is true on polling regarding Syria and the state of the economy.

The key takeaway here isn’t a look at the polarized electorate, but rather, the asymmetric polarization. The New Republic’s Brian Beutler had a good piece on this the other day, arguing, “You can draw any number of inferences from this observation, but the most inarguable, in my opinion, is how devastating it is to the conceit that U.S. political dysfunction … should be attributed to both parties in equal measure.”

Postscript: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had a related item over the weekend, noting that for many voters, partisanship is so strong, it even alters perceptions of past events, not just future expectations: “When GOP voters in Wisconsin were asked last October whether the economy had gotten better or worse ‘over the past year,’ they said ‘worse’ – by a margin of 28 points. But when they were asked the very same question last month, they said ‘better’ – by a margin of 54 points. That’s a net swing of 82 percentage points between late October 2016 and mid-March 2017. What changed so radically in those four and a half months? The economy didn’t. But the political landscape did.”

Polling

The power of GOP partisanship captured in new polling