This week, DailyKos released the eye-opening results of a poll of 2,000 Republicans across the country, which found that astonishingly large numbers of GOP voters believe President Obama is racist, a socialist, and a non-citizen -- views that have become staples of far-right radio and TV pundits.
As Sam Stein of the Huffington Post says:
[The poll] illustrates the incredible paranoia enveloping the party and the
intense pressure drawing lawmakers further and further away from
But the poll has one big flaw: 42% of those polled came from Southern states -- way out of proportion with their share of Republican voters nationally.
This over-sampling of Southern Republicans (846 total) skews the national results, but it also means the data gives us an especially rich picture of the views held by GOP voters in the South.
And the picture is unmistakable: On almost every issue, Southern Republicans are far to the right of their national GOP brethren. In fact, GOP Southerners appear to be the driving base for some of the most extreme views circulating in the Republican Party today.
To measure this, normally we'd compare the Southern results to the national average, and then see what the difference is. But since the poll disproportionately surveyed Southerners to start with, instead I looked at how the Southern answers compared to the next most conservative region.
For example, here are four questions the poll asked Republicans about President Obama, with the Southern poll numbers compared to the next-highest region (in each of these cases, the Midwest):
QUESTION: Should Barack Obama be impeached, or not?
South: 42% yes
Next-highest region: 38% yes
Southern difference: +4%
QUESTION: Do you believe Barack Obama was born in the United States, or not?
South: 43% no
Next-highest region: 33% no
Southern difference: +10%
QUESTION: Do you think Barack Obama is a socialist?
South: 67% yes
Next-highest region: 61% yes
Southern difference: +6%
QUESTION: Do you believe Barack Obama wants the terrorists to win?
South: 28% yes
Next-highest region: 22% yes
Southern difference: +6%
An important reminder: These are just self-identified Southern Republicans -- a big caveat, given that Democrats still have a voter registration advantage in most Southern states, even in "red states" that voted against Obama in 2008 (for example, Louisiana has twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans).
It's also true that Southerners are hardly alone in holding extreme views: The fact that "only" 60% of Republicans in the West, for example, believe that Obama is a socialist, or that 34% of GOP voters in the Northeast think the president should be impeached is hardly a testament to national moderation.
But it's also clear that the South remains a uniquely strong base for the GOP's most extreme views. The embrace of Southern Republicans of the "birther" issue is especially notable, given its likely roots in discomfort with Obama's cultural and racial heritage.
In short: The poll doesn't reflect a general shift to the right in the South. But it does show the growing hold of a certain form of far-right politics in Southern Republican circles, and a high level of receptivity among Republican Southerners to some of the conservative movement's most extreme views.