Some progressive Democrats have argued that if GOP voters knew more about their party's positions, they wouldn't be voting Republican. Of course, many GOP voters know exactly what they're voting for, but others don't — and Ethan Winter, an analyst for Data for Progress, takes a look at the more uninformed Republican voters in an article published on New Year's Eve Day.
"As part of a Data for Progress survey fielded in mid-November 2020," Winter explains, "I posed five questions to voters where I asked them to assign policy positions to each of their major parties. To do this, I employed an A/B split, where half the sample was asked if the Democrats supported a policy and the other half of the sample was asked if the Republicans supported that policy."
Winter adds that the issues he "tested" included: "(1) protecting the ability of those with preexisting conditions to get health insurance, (2) expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, (3) raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and (4) allowing companies to dump mining debris into mountain streams."
The Data for Progress analyst found that a shocking amount of Republicans are voting for positions they disagree with — and they don't even know it. For example, Winter found that many GOP voters who oppose overturning the ACA and ending its protections for preexisting health conditions don't realize that the Republicans they are voting for don't share that position.
"While 78% of likely voters know, correctly, that Democrats support protections for those with preexisting conditions, a plurality, 45, of likely voters, incorrectly, think that Republicans do as well," Winter observes. "Among voters that self-identify as Republican, 76% think that their party supports these protections."
Winter adds, "Likely voters do a slightly better job assigning policy positions when it comes to Medicaid expansion; 72% percent of voters know that Democrats support its expansion. Still, a quarter, 25%, of likely voters think that Republicans support this policy. Among Republicans, this number sits at 38%."
Winter also found that "almost a third, 30%, of Republicans think that their party supports increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour."
In February 2017 — President Donald Trump's first full month in office — a Morning Consult poll showed just how uninformed some Republican voters are. According to Morning Consult, 72% of Republicans surveyed realized that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act of 2010 were the same thing — which means that 28% didn't. That poll explains why, in 2017, there were Republican voters who didn't realize they were contradicting themselves by saying that they supported Trump's desire to end Obamacare but were opposed to repealing the Affordable Care Act.
That same month, the Los Angeles Times' Noam M. Levy profiled a Florida resident named Kathy Watson — who, at the time, was a 55-year-old cancer survivor and a diabetic who, Levy reported, "credits Obamacare with saving her life." Yet she voted for Trump in 2016.
Winter concludes his article by saying that reporters, going forward, will need to do better job laying out the positions of the political parties they are reporting on.
"For politics to rebalance at a healthier outcome where voters are actually able to assign the correct positions to the parties," Winter writes, "we will need a new kind of reporting — one that doesn't flinch from assigning policy views to the parties or drawing out the implications of these ideas in clear and materially-grounded terms. Without that, our politics will continue to march on in a fog of confusion."