Sunday, July 24, 2011

Compromise vs. principle, 2006

In November 2006, the Democrats regained a majority in the House of Representatives after twelve years in the minority.  President Bush was unpopular--only 38% of people said that they approved of his performance.  A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll asked "When dealing with George W. Bush, do you think Democrats in Congress should compromise to get things done even if they have to sacrifice some of their beliefs, or should the Democrats in Congress stand up for their beliefs even if that means less might be accomplished?" and a parallel question about how Bush should act in dealing with the Democrats.  Overall 52% thought that both should compromise, 17% thought that Bush should compromise and the Democrats should stand firm, 11% thought that the Democrats should compromise and Bush should stand firm, and 13% said that both should stand up for what they believed in.  The other 7% said they were not sure about one or both questions.  Of course, opinions differed by ideology.

Who should compromise?
                  Both     Just Bush    Just Dems    Neither                    
Liberal             48%      30%           6%          10%
Moderate            61%      15%           6%          13%
Conservative        48%       8%          22%          15%       

Liberals and conservatives are almost a mirror image of each other--conservatives were somewhat more likely to say that neither should compromise, and liberals were a somewhat more likely to say that only the other side should compromise, but I doubt that either difference is statistically significant.  Moderates were more likely to say that both sides should compromise. 

So this is what you might expect to be the normal pattern--moderates want both sides to compromise, liberals and conservatives want the other side to compromise (that's emphasizing the differences--as I said last time, compromise is popular among all kinds of people).  But this was not a normal political situation--the Democrats were riding high, and the Republicans were on the defensive.  That is, it was pretty much the opposite of 2010, so the pattern should have been the opposite--both conservatives and moderates calling for compromise.  So it seems that both of the interpretations I mentioned last time are partly true--support for compromise increases as your side gets weaker, but there's also a tendency for conservatives to be less favorable to compromise than liberals.  Admittedly, this conclusion is based on only two examples, but that's how it looks now.

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