With a national debate raging over the place of radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh in the Republican Party, a new national survey from Democracy Corps and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner finds that Limbaugh weighs down heavily on an already weakened Republican Party – putting Republican leaders and their party’s conservative base voters out of sync with not only Democrats and independents, but even the bloc of moderate Republicans.
On virtually every question the great majority of the mainstream rejects Limbaugh’s ideas and vision of the Republican Party, which severely constrains Republican elected leaders. It does not help that some of the key voters in the 2006 and 2008 elections, like younger voters, are particularly uncomfortable with Limbaugh’s politics.
Conservative Republican voters, however, embrace Limbaugh, giving him a very high favorability rating; they say he shares their values and urge Republican leaders to defend him when he is criticizing President Obama. Remarkably, voters view Limbaugh negatively by a two-to-one ratio (53 to 26 percent), with nearly half the country, 45 percent, viewing him very, very negatively. Among independents, the ratio rises to three-to-one. More important are the values that Limbaugh espouses. By a nearly two-to-one ratio (57 to 32 percent) a majority of voters – and independents – say Limbaugh does not “share their values,” but Republicans are in a different world where, by two-to-one, they believe he shares them.
Voters clearly think Limbaugh is a major force in the party and indeed, a near majority of voters, 49 percent, say that Limbaugh has too much influence over Republican ideas and direction – compared to just 15 percent who say he has too little. This is happening at a time when two-thirds say “the average voter” has too little influence over the Republican Party. 62 percent of voters, including a similar percentage of moderate Republicans, say that the Republican Party is embracing the “same old ideas and leaders it has relied on for the past 20 years” rather than seeking out new leaders and fresh ideas. With Rush Limbaugh’s vision and values so strong among the conservative Republicans who are the heart of the party’s base, Republican leaders carry a heavy weight when they attempt to position themselves to act for the broader electorate. This memo is based on a national survey of 1,000 2008 voters, including 170 interviewed on cell phones (120 unweighted) and 830 likely 2010 voters (863 unweighted), conducted for Democracy Corps by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner March 5-8, 2009.