Monday, June 3, 2013

Left, Right, and ?

Last February, a CBS/New York Times survey asked people if the policies proposed by several candidates for the Republican nomination "favor the rich, favor the middle class, favor the poor, or do they treat all groups equally?"  They asked the same thing about the "policies of the Obama administration."  Between 10% (Obama) and 27% (Santorum) of people said that they didn't know.  Leaving them aside and giving the percentages of those with an opinion, we get:

               Rich      Middle      Poor     Equal
Obama           28%        22%        21%       29%
Paul            31%        18%         3%       49%
Gingrich        64%        11%         1%       25%
Romney          61%        13%         1%       26%
Santorum        42%        15%         3%       40%

If you combine these into two measures:  Rich minus middle class and poor minus "all equally", the perceived positions of the candidates can be shown in this figure:

  The differences among the candidates don't fall into a single dimension:  Obama and Paul are close on the horizontal (middle class vs. rich) scale, but at opposite ends of the vertical (poor vs. all equally).  Romney and Gingrich are at the extremes of the horizontal, but near the middle of the vertical one.  In principle, it would seem like being seen as favoring the middle class or all equally would both be appealing to most voters, and favoring the rich would be a clear negative.   That is, the most desirable position would be the lower left, where Ron Paul was.  That raises the question of whether their really is a lot of potential support for Ron Paul's policies, or whether people were giving him the benefit of the doubt because they didn't know much about him:  in effect, voters assume that a candidate will treat all groups equally until he proves otherwise.

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