He’s still better liked among Republicans than his fellow Arizonan Jeff Flake, who’s at a mind-boggling 11 percent favorability in the same poll. But even Flake’s unfavorability doesn’t approach Maverick’s despite his endless criticism of Trump. Flake is at 48 percent unfavorability among Republicans; McCain is a full 15 points higher.
How come? Probably it’s a toxic brew of name recognition, history, and his recent voting patterns. Many Republican voters couldn’t pick Flake out of a line-up but everyone knows McCain from his 2008 presidential run. Various factions of the right disdain him for his many years of amnesty boosterism and utterly relentless interventionism. And unlike Flake, McCain crossed Trump on the biggest vote of the year so far, the “skinny repeal” bill to undo ObamaCare. Put all of that together and ol’ Mav is an honorary Democrat now.
Although he always sort of was, right?
The numbers are even starker among Hillary Clinton voters and Donald Trump voters. Among the former group, McCain’s at 67 percent favorability. Among the latter, he’s at 70 percent unfavorability. Seventy percent.
Consider the poll a companion piece to this enjoyably pissy Matthew Walther piece at The Week today about McCain being a “self-satisfied bore”:
McCain’s speeches are all the same regardless of their ostensible subject. His constant — indeed his only — theme these past 30 years has been the selflessness, gravity, and heroism of Sen. John McCain. He has managed over the course of a long political career to besmirch the handful of good decisions he has made with his pomposity. Even something as straightforward as voting no on one of the dozens of bills meant to repeal the Affordable Care Act this year became for McCain an exercise in reminding us that he is fluent in the treacly language of middle-school civics textbooks. For him the problem with the bill was not that it would have been a nightmare for poor people in his home state but rather that a sadly insufficient number of “hearings” had been held for a statesman of his caliber to offer his assent to this otherwise noble product of our stalwart republican legislature. Scarcely a weekend of this man’s life goes by without his appearing on a Sunday talk show to bloviate tautologically about how his latest honorable, decent, above-the-fray position is the inevitable result of his being honorable and decent and above the fray.
I wonder how much of McCain’s interventionism has been driven by carefully deliberated foreign policy strategy and how much by being drawn to high-minded sentiments like “Today we are all Georgians” or “Today we are all Libyans” and damn the consequences. Ah well.
If you can spare the time, scroll through the crosstabs of YouGov’s omnibus new poll as it has data for some of the quirkiest questions I’ve seen a pollster ask all year. Some are timely. For instance, here’s the split on whether Americans believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in murdering JFK or whether others were involved:
Nearly three times as many Americans subscribe to a conspiracy theory than believe Oswald carried out the plan independently. There’s an age divide that’s noteworthy, though. Senior citizens, who remember the assassination, split 22/57 on whether it was Oswald or a conspiracy; among the youngest age group, adults aged 18-29, the split is just 18/40. The older the demographic, the more conspiracy-prone they are in this case.
Another fascinating result. You’ve heard of “the trolley problem,” I assume, in which a trolley is careening out of control on a track directly towards five people who can’t get out of the way in time. The only way to save them is to throw a switch that will divert the trolley to a second track — on which there’s one person. Do you throw the switch or not? If you choose not to act, a bunch of people die but through no action of yours. (Unless you count your decision not to act as an action.) If you do act and throw the switch, you’re directly causing an innocent man to die, albeit for the sake of saving others. The moral conundrum: Do you throw the switch? Interestingly, there’s an ideological gap on the responses. From top to bottom, “definitely,” “probably,” “maybe,” “probably not,” “definitely not”:
My guess would have been that conservatives are less likely to throw the switch than liberals are since liberals are forever bellowing about the common good while conservatives are more individualistic. Instead it’s the opposite — conservatives are more likely than liberals to throw the switch, saving five but directly causing the death of one, instead of standing by and letting fate take its course with the five. What’s the hot take that explains that difference? Liberals care about “the common good” in the abstract not as much in concrete terms? Liberals are more passive than conservatives are in the face of terrible misfortune? Interestingly, there’s very little partisan gap between Dems and GOPers; the spread is specifically among liberals and conservatives. There’s also very little gap when you tweak the question to ask whether you would push a man in front of a runaway trolley if you knew it would save five people. In that case 20 percent of both liberals and conservatives say they’d either definitely or probably push the man, a far lower percentage than would throw the switch in the first hypothetical even though in both cases the price of saving five people is sacrificing a sixth.
As for why YouGov is interested in the trolley problem, presumably it’s because AI eggheads are wrestling with it in developing self-driving cars. If you’re in the backseat of an autonomous vehicle that suddenly finds five people directly in its path, whom should the AI sacrifice — the five, or you? Odds are it’s going to be taught to steer you directly into a wall for the greater good. Brave new world, bro.