I’m not at Netroots Nation nor am I watching it online, so I won’t comment on what’s happening there. But the session this morning with White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer has generated some good questions from some of the better journalists covering the event.
Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein wondered if “a top GOP official [would] get grilled like @pfeiffer44 is at NN in front of conservative crowd?” It’s a good question, and I suspect the answer is “it depends.” If it were the typical conservative event, like CPAC, probably not, because most of the attendees would be movement conservatives who ultimately want access to Republican power, so the crowd would not likely include many people prone to publicly distancing themselves from Republicans in power. But I think Dave Weigel is right that a tea party events the Republican party is an ideological pinata.
Stein’s question does raise a few related points: how much does activist sentiment reflect the wider sentiment of the party’s broad voting base, and how are the parties faring with their voting bases. Again, I’ll leave the analysis of Netroots Nation to those in attendance, but on the question of base satisfaction with its party, polling shows the Democrats in much better shape than the Republicans.
In a 2010 CBS poll Democrats were 6 points more likely to report favorable views of their party than were Republicans (pdf). Winning control of the House and limiting Democratic power in Washington appears to have done little to change these views; last month Pew reported the same 6 point difference.
A CNN poll in March found Democrats 9 points more favorable toward Congressional Democrats than Republicans were to Congressional Republicans (pdf). In April Fox reported a 4 point(pdf) difference in the same direction.
Republicans also don’t appear to expect liking their party more in the future. In 2007 and 2008 Democrats were very happy with their candidates for President, and Republicans weren’t horribly unhappy. But last week NBC/Wall St Journal reported 45% of Republicans were dissatisfied with their choices for president (pdf). In May AP/Roper reported Republican dissatisfaction with their presidential options was growing (pdf); in March it had only been 33% but by May it had jumped to 45%.
Gallup has even reported that for the first time since they’ve been asking the question that a majority of Republicans favor the creation of a third party (pdf). 52% of Republicans say they would support creation of a third party, while only 33% of Democrats say a third party is needed.
It’s normal for any president to have some portion of the activist base unhappy for not achieving as much as was promised or might have been accomplished. The discontent being reported from Netroots Nation may include a lot of valid criticism. But for now, at least, it’s not Democrats who have a bigger problem with their base, it’s Republicans.