I've heard a lot about how Republicans are dissatisfied with the current field of GOP candidates, while Democrats are generally satisfied. This is based on polling data, and is often being presented as clear evidence that a Democrat will win the general election in 2008. A CBS News Poll
found that 57% of Democrats are satisfied with their field, while only 40% of Republicans are satisfied. Newsweek found
that77% of Democrats satisfied and only 52% of Republicans satisfied.
While I would agree that many Republicans are upset with their party as of late, I do not think that these are signs that this is necessarily the Democrats' election to lose. I am curious if the state of satisfaction has something to do with the diverse experiences that the Republican field has to offer.
At first glance at the two Presidential fields, I see a great deal of political diversity amongst the GOP field. The GOP field front-runners (Romney, Giuliani, McCain, F. Thompson) are comprised of a Governor, a Mayor, and two Senators. Outside of politics they are a successful businessman and Executive, a lawyer, a war-veteran, and an actor. The Democratic field (Clinton, Obama, Edwards) is comprised of lawyers turned Senator. Their stance on many big issues is very similar to one another(Nationalized health-care, out of Iraq, etc...). To this end, I see a wider range of choice in the GOP field, which may play some role in the dissatisfaction amongst Republicans.
In The Paradox of Choice
, Barry Schwartz makes a compelling argument why more choice is not necessarily better. With an increased number of choices, we perceive a greater opportunity cost by not
choosing one of the other options. Furthermore, Schwartz offers several examples of how when faced with more choice people are less satisfied, less likely to make a decision, and typically less satisfied with their decision! With such diverse choice for a Republican candidate, we would expect based on Schwartz' evidence that it would lead to dissatisfaction.
Testament to this is the countless head-to-head match-ups between Democratic front-runners and Republican front-runners. While the Democrat wins most of these match-ups, it is not by the same margin that they lead when it comes to satisfaction.