Netroots Survey Results, Part One
by Chris Bowers, Thu Jun 15, 2006 at 08:50:45 AM EDT
This is the survey you paid for--the first survey conducted under BlogPac's new management. The results were already released at Yearly Kos, and parts of them have appeared in multiple news outlets. Also, back on Monday, I gave you a preview of the results of the netroots survey, showing that within the netroots, there is a direct correlation between frequency of political, progressive blog readership and favorable / unfavorable ratings of Hillary Clinton. Today, I would like to give you the rest of the results of the poll, broken up into two different posts. The first post can be found in the extended entry.
This survey was designed for release at Yearly Kos as part of a panel on polling and the blogosphere. As moderator of that panel, I decided that instead of rehashing the details of the many arguments that have taken place within the netroots concerning poll weighting, exit polls, question wording, impeachment / sincere questions, and other matters of polling process minutia, I instead wanted to hold a panel that would be able to capitalize on the large traditional media presence that would be at Yearly Kos. From my perspective, reigning in the anti-netroots narrative emanating from certain pundits and other elements within the established media was more important than diving into an extremely wonky panel on any of the subjects I listed above. That narrative has been largely based on anecdotes, stereotypes, out-of-date conceptions of political activism, fear, and the widespread ignorance that surrounds the relatively new phenomenon that is the progressive netroots. Considering the large media presence at the conference, if it were possible to complete and release the results of a statistically viable, scientifically random survey of the progressive netroots at Yearly Kos, then it would be possible to combat the anti-netroots narrative through research and education.
In March and April, I had spent some time with Mark Blumenthal of Mystery Pollster discussing just how such a survey could be completed. Eventually, we decided that the only viable means was through an email survey. Since the progressive netroots are still a small portion of the nation as a whole, a traditional telephone survey would require tens of thousands of phone calls in order to reach a large enough sample size. However, using the Democracy for America email list, Pew had been able of conduct a very good survey of Dean activists in 2004-2005. Since we wanted to conduct a survey of the entire progressive netroots and not just Dean activists, we instead set our sights on sampling from the largest progressive political email list of all: MoveOn.org's. With three and a half million emails, MoveOn.org is easily the largest email list within the universe of the progressive netroots, and can be understood as a solid, representative sample of the progressive netroots as a whole. We did approach other, smaller lists to try and create a combined survey, but in the end only MoveOn.org was willing to participate. While this means that we were unable to sample form the entire universe of the progressive netroots, I still feel confident that our results are the best public information to date on the progressive netroots as a whole.
What we already knew
Previous studies of the netroots had already provided us with some solid information on the nature of the progressive netroots. Specifically, the scientifically random Pew survey of Dean activists and the large, though self-selecting, Blogads survey of progressive blog readers, already provided us with key information. From these previous studies, we already knew that the progressive netroots were older than many imagined, high level consumers of news media, extremely well educated, and extremely politically active:
And from the 2006 Blogads survey:Political Engagement:
Signed a petition: 82.9% (79.9%)
Contributed to a cause/campaign: 79% (78%)
Written or called any politician: 79.9% (72.8%)
Written a letter to the editor: 47.0% (44.4%)
Attended a political rally, speech, or organized protest: 46.3% (55.3%)
Active member of any group that tries to influence public policy: 37.4% (38.5%)
Attended a public meeting on town or school affairs: 37.3% (35.0%) Although we did not ask all of these questions in our survey, the ones we did ask concerning activism replicated these results almost precisely. However, like I already noted, we already knew that the progressive netroots tended to be middle-aged, extremely politically active, high-level consumers of news media, and extraordinarily well-educated. Further, since the traditional media would already see much of this simply be attending Yearly Kos and since this information was already in the public domain, we did not want our survey to focus on these generally demographic areas of concern. We wanted to focus our survey on questions where ignorance concerning the progressive netroots was still rampant, and where further education was most needed.
Democrats in General
While many of the demographic aspects of the netroots were either widely known or at least about to be finally realized by the established news media, what is not widely known about the progressive netroots are which Democratic leaders they most favor, and which strategic directions they would suggest for the Democratic Party and progressive movement. One of the most common aspects of the anti-netroots narrative is to simply consider the netroots as far-left, unreasonable, and politically naïve. The goal of this survey was to test those assumptions. Do netroots activists prefer leaders who are consistently left-wing, or do they prefer candidates with guts and inspiration? Do the netroots demand ideological purity, or do they demand partisanship? Do the netroots make hard-line demands of Democratic and progressive leaders, or do they instead offer of pragmatic, political advice?
Early on in our survey, we posed tow open-ended questions to the netroots. First, "why have the Democrats been losing elections lately," and second, "what can Democats do to win back Congress?" Rather than demanding a move to the left, the overwhelming response was that Democrats need to stand for something:
In this sense, the netroots are exactly like the rest of the nation when it comes to the Democratic Party. As with much of the electorate, within the netroots there is an overwhelming desire for the netroots to stand for something, fight Republicans, and articulate a positive message / vision for America. From the perspective of the netroots, right now the Democratic Party is doing a terrible job on all of those fronts:
As you can see from these questions, the netroots give the Democratic Party low ratings on virtually every aspect of campaigning. The lowest rating of all comes in "providing an agenda on how they will govern." Above all else, the netroots want a positive message form Democrats.
Back on Monday, I released this chart, which showed that the favorable / unfavorable opinion of Hillary Clinton was heavily tied into how often someone reads blogs. The more often someone reads blogs, the less likely they are to have a favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton
Now, I can only imagine that many pundits and members of the traditional media would see this chart and cimply conclude that Hillary Clinton is not well liked by blog readers because she is "too moderate," or something. However, those pundits would have a difficult time squaring that conclusion with the following list:
In our survey we conducted favorable / unfavorable ratings of about twenty-five Democratic leaders and elected officials. These were the only six Democrats who had a higher "strongly favorable" rating than a "somewhat favorable" rating. In terms of ideology, it is quite a mixed group. You can find conservative Jack Murtha, DLC co-founder Al gore, cautious moderates like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and progressives such as Barbara Boxer and Russ Feingold. Considering how mixed this group of six is, I see no way that one can conclude that it is ultimately ideology and left-wing stances on policy issues that most inspire the netroots. Instead, we find candidates that offer an inspirational narrative for America and the Democratic Party (Barack Obama, Bill Clinton). We see Democrats who have in fact stood up for something and fought Republicans in dramatic fashion (Jack Murtha on Iraq, Russ Feingold on civil liberties and Iraq, Barbara Boxer on election reform and Condi Rice, and Al Gore who has become one of the most full-throated critics of President bush in the last few years). Perhaps most of all, we see at the very top a Democrat who won. Bill Clinton had easily the highest "strongly favorable" rating of all Democrats, and I have little dubt that this is because he was a Democrat who actually defeated Republicans on numerous occasions and served as President.
From this list, one can see that what the netroots want is not a hard-left ideological stance, but guts, inspiration, and victory. This is something all Democratic leaders should keep in mind. We also conducted favorable ratings for most Democrats who are considered potential 2008 Presidential candidates:
As you can see, every Democrat has an overall, positive favorable rating, but only a select few have more "strong" favorables than "somewhat" favorables.
It is also interesting to note that Hillary Clinton is the least liked Democrat among the netroots. Even in comments on blogs such as MyDD, the overall counter to this argument is that "the netroots don't matter," or "the netroots have not unified behind a candidate, and can't support multiple candidates to defeat her." First, the netroots clearly do matter in terms of influencing Democratic public opinion (see Senate primary, Connecticut). Second, what many people miss is that the netroots do not necessarily have to unify behind a single candidate in order to propel someone past Hillary Clinton. Instead, the netroots can simply drag down national Democratic opinion of Hillary Clinton, allowing several candidates, all of whom may or may not have strong netroots support, move past her. Again, see Senate primary, Connecticut. Only 20% of Connecticut residents know who Ned Lamont is, yet he is already competitive in the polls simply because the netroots have dominated the local media narrative on who Joe Lieberman is. It is just as much a question of how low the netroots can drag Hillary Clinton down as it is how much they can lift someone else up.
Here were the other favorable ratings from the survey:
- Robert Byrd: 56% favorable, 17% unfavorable, 20% strongly favorable.
- Tom Daschle: 64% favorable, 23% unfavorable, 20% strongly favorable
- Dick Gephardt: 62% favorable, 27% unfavorable, 10% strongly favorable
- Paul Hackett: 24% favorable, 1% unfavorable, 12% strongly favorable
- Rahm Emmanuel: 23% favorable, 5% unfavorable, 8% strongly favorable
- Stephanie Herseth: 6% favorable, 1% unfavorable, 2% strongly favorable
- Nancy Pelosi: 75% favorable, 16% unfavorable, 29% strongly favorable
- Harry Reid: 56% favorable, 17% unfavorable, 12% strongly favorable
- Chuck Schumer: 57% favorable, 8% unfavorable, 22% strongly favorable
Later today, I will be posting the rest of the results, that focus on what specific strategies the netroots prescribe for the progressive movement and the Democratic Party.