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Poll question about the goal of politics yields interesting results

Echelon Insights asked, “Do you think the goal of politics is more about enacting good public policy or about ensuring the survival of the country as we know it?”

U.S. Capitol Building
U.S. Capitol Building
REUTERS/Jim Bourg

I hope I’m not (but fear I might be) becoming a sort of caricature of a never-Trumper. 

I’m trying to move on, but often have trouble not obsessing on what I view as the threat posed not just by Trump but also the 40 percent or so of the electorate that cling to Trumpism with such ferocious devotion that it blots out the sun when they look at the sky and a great many inconvenient truths when they turn to politics (and not just politics per se, but to their entire feeling about what America is, where it is heading, what the key challenges are that it faces and what to do about those challenges).

There are several ways to approach those questions, and I got some new insights from a perhaps under-covered poll by an outfit called Echelon Insights. 

Although the poll was conducted in late January (and it would be interesting to see whether the same result would be produced now that the presidential transition has occurred and the Capitol riot has faded a bit), Echelon asked an unusual question, namely:

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“Do you think the goal of politics is more about enacting good public policy or about ensuring the survival of the country as we know it?”

Rather amazingly (to me at least) the two answers tied, with 38 percent saying good policy, 38 percent saying survival of the country, and 23 percent unsure.

But when the responses were broken down by party, Democrats were substantially more likely (by 47-38 percent, with 15 percent unsure) to say politics is about public policy; Republicans were even more substantially likely to say the opposite (only 25 percent thought politics is about public policy, compared to 46 percent who said it was about ensuring the survival of the country as we know it, and 29 percent unsure).

Independents were (unsurprisingly) in between, but a bit closer to Democrats, with 40 percent saying politics was about public policy and 31 percent worried about the survival of the country as we know it.

The Trumpiness of the survivalists was further underscored when the poll asked whether the Republicans considered themselves “Trump Republicans” or more regular “GOP Republicans” (about half of the Republican respondents fit in each category).

The GOP Republicans favored the survival answer, but only by 41-30 (with the rest unsure), which was alarming enough. But those who described themselves as “Trump Republicans” favored the survival answer by 51-19 (that would be 73 percent of those who had an opinion), with the rest unsure.

I’m not in a position to cross-examine the poll results any further than that. “Trump Republicans” are not the majority of the country, although they are the majority of Republicans, and they are dominated by a group that views the survival of our country to be at stake and Trumpism to be the thing that can save us.

To me, of course, Trump and Trumpism were (and perhaps still are) among the bigger threats to our survival, at least as a decent and functioning democratic republic.

The results of the Echelon poll can be viewed graphically here

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Oh, and a hat tip to David Brooks. I learned of this poll question, and the breakdown of the results, in this recent Brooks column.