The WSJ Illustrates How Conservative Talk Radio Is Informing The Republican Presidential Primary

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In a November 23 post for the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog, Patrick O'Connor highlighted how the "anti-establishment" views of conservative talk radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin "are informing the race for the Republican presidential nomination" as polls have found that "roughly a third of Republican primary voters strongly identify with conservative talk radio."

Right-wing radio hosts have repeatedly attacked 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, leading many in the media to assert that Bush has a "serious talk radio problem," and O'Connor noted that accordingly just 3% of "the most avid conservative talk-radio listeners" would vote for him. Conversely, O'Connor said right-wing talk radio listeners ranked Ben Carson and Donald Trump as their top choices, which is unsurprising given that the hosts have repeatedly supported the two candidates. Rush Limbaugh has praised Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric, while Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham have praised him as "refreshing" for being "willing to say things that no one else is saying." Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity have all repeatedly defended Carson amid the candidate's controversial remarks and inconsistencies in his autobiographical claims.

Despite the fact that Republicans once "touted conservative talk radio as a foolproof medium to communicate directly with their most ardent supporters," O'Connor explained that "Republican leaders in Washington are under siege from their own activists." From O'Connor's post (emphasis added):

Consider the folks who regularly tune in to conservative talk radio. These listeners expect a steady diet of Obama-bashing, so it's hardly surprising that not one surveyed for a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in late October approved of the job Barack Obama is doing as president.

That anger translates to how these Americans view the country as a whole. Some 98% think the country is headed in the wrong direction, a view regularly reinforced on the airwaves by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and other talk-radio hosts who don't have much nice to say about GOP leaders in Washington, either.

A decade ago, Republicans touted conservative talk radio as a foolproof medium to communicate directly with their most ardent supporters. Democrats and liberal groups tried to replicate that success by building their own left-leaning television and radio stations, with far less success.

Now, the tables have turned. Republican leaders in Washington are under siege from their own activists, in part, because conservative radio hosts are almost as likely to rail against the party brass in Congress as they are to lament Mr. Obama's failings in the Oval Office.

The most avid conservative talk-radio listeners ranked retired neurosurgeon Ben Carsonas their top pick, followed by celebrity businessman Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Just 3% gave the nod to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the heir to the party's longest-standing political dynasty, and only a third of these voters said they were even open to voting for Mr. Bush, down from half in September.

Republican presidential contenders would be unwise to write off this bloc; roughly a third of Republican primary voters strongly identify with conservative talk radio, about 10 percentage points higher than the share of GOP primary voters who consider themselves moderate or liberal, according to the survey conducted by the Democrats at Hart Research Associates and the Republicans at Public Opinion Research.

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