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Fluctuating Values

As I was looking over the CBS/NYT poll and I came upon the remarkable results from the “shares your values” questions (questions 44 and following), I began to wonder how the respondents are making their judgements.  On McCain, 62% say he “shares their values,” 24% say no; 63% say the same of Huckabee, while just 13% say no (24% don’t know).  Meanwhile, Romney’s results are 48/24 (with 29% saying they didn’t know).  There almost has to be some kind of circular reasoning going on here.  I think it goes something like this: McCain and Huckabee have both won early state contests for the nomination, which apparently means that the voters must have recognised that these candidates “shared their values” and therefore supported them, while Romney kept losing to both, implying that he doesn’t “share your values” as much as the others.  Giuliani fares poorly as well, perhaps reflecting his lack of electoral success.  How else do you explain the sudden increase from 47 to 62% of Republicans who believe McCain “shares their values” in the last month?  Literally nothing has changed about McCain in the last month, except that he has perhaps become more obnoxious.  For that matter, how could more than a fifth of Republicans not know the answer to this question just a month ago? 

If this doesn’t explain it, the gap between Republican voters and conservative activists is even greater than I imagined–how else do we explain this phenomenon of strong voter affinity for the two candidates most loathed by party and movement activists?  However, we must be careful and not commit the Giuliani Fallacy.  That is, we should not conclude some radical transformation of a political coalition based on nothing more than transitory poll numbers.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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