John Fund sat down with Scott Rasmussen recently. Rasmussen is perhaps the most innovative, and accurate, pollster in the land today. He has certainly been the most accurate pollster in the last 2 general elections. Rasmussen has some interesting insights into today’s political landscape:
You can tell it’s a volatile political year when a balding, middle-aged pollster gets a standing ovation from hundreds of state legislators after delivering the news that only 23% of the people in this country believe today’s federal government has the consent of the governed.
“Americans don’t want to be governed from the left or the right,” Scott Rasmussen tells the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conference of 1,500 conservative and moderate legislators. “They want, like the Founding Fathers, to largely govern themselves with Washington in a supporting—but not dominant—role. The tea party movement is today’s updated expression of that sentiment.”
To figure out where people are, he asks three questions: Whose judgment do you trust more: that of the American people or America’s political leaders? Has the federal government become its own special interest group? Do government and big business often work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors? Those who identify with the government on two or more questions are defined as the political class.
Before the financial crisis of late 2008, about a tenth of Americans fell into the political class, while some 53% were classified as in the mainstream public. The rest fell somewhere in the middle. Now the percentage of people identifying with the political class has clearly declined into single digits, while those in the mainstream public have grown slightly. A majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents all agree with the mainstream view on Mr. Rasmussen’s three questions. “The major division in this country is no longer between parties but between political elites and the people,” Mr. Rasmussen says.
His recent polls show huge gaps between the two groups. While 67% of the political class believes the U.S. is moving in the right direction, a full 84% of mainstream voters believe the nation is moving in the wrong one. The political class overwhelmingly supported the bailouts of the financial and auto industries, the health-care bill, and the Justice Department’s decision to sue Arizona over its new immigration law. Those in the mainstream public just as intensely opposed those moves.
A couple of things here: 1) the people are really looking for some sort of post partisan candidate. Obama said he was the one to deliver that kind of politics. Assuming it is even possible, Obama has governed the opposite of his promises of a new agnostic partisan world. 2) The public is very split–again in non-partisan ways–by political elites, and the rest. It would be nice if we had a definition of who a political elite is. It has to be more than a person who works in government. How does a political elite transcend party ID?
Regardless of those questions, it is odd to say the least, how the Obama administration can campaign on being above party, and then wonder how the people could possibly be reacting negatively to his partisan governance. How could the administration really not understand the trends? These questions notwithstanding, Rasmussen should be paid attention to until his methodology and predictive force proves he is unreliable. Presently, nobody beats what he is able to do.