Strange Brew

by Ramesh Ponnuru

David Campbell and Robert Putnam argue in the New York Times that there’s a surprising reason that “disapproval for the Tea Party is climbing”: “To embrace the Tea Party carries great political risk for Republicans, but perhaps not for the reason you might think.” The surprising reason is that tea partiers are socially conservative, and while the country has moved right over the last five years on the economic issues associated with the tea parties they have moved left on the social issues.

I have no idea what data they’re looking at. They use abortion as an indicator of the tea partiers’ social conservatism. Gallup has the percentage of Americans who say abortion should never be legal up since 2006, and the percentage who say it should always be legal slightly down. Gallup’s pro-choice/pro-life numbers have moved right too. (Scroll down here a little.)

But here’s what I find odd about the op-ed. Campbell and Putnam are trying to explain why Americans have increasingly negative views about the tea parties. But their answer, that the tea partiers are too socially conservative, makes no sense because Campbell and Putnam already told us that people don’t know that they’re so socially conservative.

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