Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Yellow Dog Blog's Red-State Poll

Well, I'm back from my trip to the heart of Bush Country – my rural hometown of St. Paul, Nebraska, right in the middle of one of the staunchest of the conservative-voting states.

Armed with only beer money, my reporter's notebook and my digital voice recorder, I ventured into the County Cage saloon in St. Paul, committed to spending as much time there as necessary to put my finger on the pulse of Republican America.

While my results are the farthest thing from scientific – I'm obviously a partisan poll taker and all of the participants had been drinking -- what I found surprised me. I talked to 28 people, an equal split of men and women and with an age range of 19 to 72 years old. I allowed only the following answers: "Yes," "No" or "I Don't Know."

In a county (Howard County) that voted for Bush to the tune of 68.4 percent in 2004, here are the results:
Do you believe George W. Bush has done a good job in the time he's been in office?

Yes 35.7%
No 42.9%
Don't Know 21.4%
Wow. In the fourth reddest of the red states, over 64 percent of those surveyed do not think Bush has done a good job or haven't heard enough good things to have an opinion. It's also important to note that this poll was taken in an establishment that runs Fox News on at least one television at all times – this makes these results even more shocking.
Do you believe Iraq had anything to do with the attacks of September 11?

Yes 50.0%
No 28.6%
Don't Know 21.4%
No surprise here. Less than a third of people I talked to know the facts about Iraq's total lack of involvement with September 11 – though one couple not only knew the truth, but could cite portions of the 9/11 Commission report. I bought them a drink and nearly wept.
Have you ever heard of the Downing Street Memo?

Yes 3.6%
No 96.4%
Well, knock me over with a feather – there's a shocker. You've got to wonder just how high the ratings are for Fox News in Nebraska. At least the one person who had heard of the Downing Street Memo could recite exactly what it said.
Do you believe it's time for a hike in the federal minimum wage?

Yes 92.9%
No 0.0%
Don't Know 7.1%
No surprise whatsoever here, given the very low average household income in my home state. However....
Do you believe George W. Bush and the Republicans favor a minimum wage increase?

Yes 14.3%
No 57.1%
Don't Know 28.6%
What?! So you know enough to understand that Bush doesn't give a rat's behind about you and your family but you voted for him anyway?
Do you believe that all Americans should be provided with some kind of national health care as a safety net?

Yes 67.9%
No 17.9%
Don't Know 14.3%
I don't have any information on this, but I know anecdotally that a large percentage of rural Nebraskans have either no medical insurance with their jobs or minimal health plans. So it doesn't surprise me that folks there would favor some sort of national program. But then again...
Do you believe George W. Bush and the Republicans favor some form of minimal, national health insurance for all citizens?

Yes 25.0%
No 42.9%
Don't Know 32.1%
So three-quarters of you either know for sure or are pretty sure that Republicans don't care about your health. So why would you vote for them again? Not sick enough and poor enough yet?

What do I make of all of this? Well, while people in my home town are decent and truly the salt of the earth, they need to be better informed – and this undoubtedly applies to many of our red-state friends and family. Bush's overall approval rating is not good among the people I spoke to, so they have an overall sense that something just ain't right with this guy, yet they don't know specifically how little he brings to the table.

Despite clearly have some awfully – gasp! – liberal leanings in terms of the minimum wage and national health care, their voting patterns show a preference toward people who don't share their views. (Hint: Look at your boy Tom Osborne's voting records before you blindly send him back to Congress next year, fellow Huskers.) Finally, how in the hell do half of them still think Iraq had anything to do with 9/11?

I couldn't pick up Air America, the New York Times or the Washington Post to save my life while I was there, so what little news they consume isn't good.

But I do have hope. This is an overwhelmingly Republican area and to have almost half the people I interviewed think Bush is not doing a good job is encouraging. They're generally starting to get it.

Tomorrow: Quotes and comments from County Cage patrons – and some of them will make you smile.