by James A. Bacon
Virginia voters describe themselves as ideologically moderate, leaning conservative, according to a new poll by the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University. Asked to place themselves on a 0-10 scale (liberal to conservative) with 5.0 being middle of the road, the 1,008 voters polled rated themselves 5.83 on average. Independents, the swing vote, pegged themselves at 5.72.
An obvious question arises: Why can’t conservatives win statewide elections in Virginia?
One possibility is that voters perceive Republicans as more conservative than they see Democrats as liberal. Respondents rated the Democratic Party as 1.97 points off the middle-of-the-road 5.0 mark nor while they rated Republicans as 2.45 points off the norm.
This raises a subsidiary question: Is the perception of Republicans as more extreme based on objective fact, an artifact of the parties’ messaging, or a distortion created by media misrepresentation? Continue reading