Primaries, Polls and Party Shares: It’s Time for the Mailbag.

A sign that voting is near.Credit…Geoff Stellfox/The Gazette, via Associated Press

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season. We haven’t received many questions about the Republican primary recently, even though the Iowa Caucus is less than three weeks away. But we have gotten a few, and many on other topics, so let’s dive into the mailbox one last time in 2023.

Switching parties for a primary?

Ms. Haley trails by 50 points in the national polls, so realistically it’s going to take a lot more than moderate Democrats switching for the race to become competitive.

But that doesn’t mean that Democrats and independents won’t play a role. Unlike New Jersey, many states have open primaries where Democrats will be able to vote in the Republican primary without changing their registration at all. It wouldn’t surprise me if Ms. Haley fares especially well in states like those, including South Carolina. She’ll also probably fare well in states where independent voters can participate, like New Hampshire.

What about a one-on-one race?

When we surveyed Iowa back in July, we found Donald J. Trump leading Ron DeSantis by 16 points, 55 percent to 39 percent, in a hypothetical one-on-one matchup. Mr. DeSantis won just 51 percent of the voters who didn’t back him or Mr. Trump, and I’d guess the tally is worse for him today, given the trend in the polls since then. I’d also guess it’s worse for Ms. Haley, who would need to win over relatively conservative DeSantis voters.

Wrong tack for “wrong track”

To be honest, Jack, I’ve never been a big fan of the question and we don’t always ask it. That said, I do think it has its place: It’s useful to have a longstanding rough proxy for the national mood, even if it doesn’t yield any insight into the “why.” For that, we have other questions.

What are they conserving?

I don’t think I agree that “conservative” has always had a consistent, specific and clear political meaning. “Liberal” and “progressive” haven’t had consistent, specific and clear political meanings either.

And at least to my mind, today’s conservatives are still true to the most basic definition: a political ideology aimed at conserving a traditional way of life — customs, culture, ideas, institutions, hierarchies, values, beliefs and more.

Clearly, some conservatives today see tension between preserving certain traditional institutions — like a democratic republic, which risks empowering those opposed to conservatives — and other conservative aims. But this is not exactly unprecedented in the conservative tradition: Beyond “radical” or “populist” that you offered, terms like reactionary or counterrevolutionary have also been used to describe conservatives who aren’t so conservative in defense of some long-established values.

But are they enthusiastic about Trump?

It does not mean they’re happy or enthusiastic about Mr. Trump. In fact, most of the voters who backed President Biden in 2020, but have backed Mr. Trump in recent New York Times/Siena College polling, do not have a favorable view of Mr. Trump at all. They’re also far less likely to say they’ll actually vote, or to have a record of doing so in the past.

Who else is out there?

Well, “could” is a pretty loose term! President Biden could beat Mr. Trump, you know. There’s even a perfectly reasonable case he’s still the favorite, despite trailing in polling today.

But the polls don’t show any other Democrats beating Mr. Trump, at least outside of their home states. In fairness to them, they’re not especially well known — and, relatively speaking, neither is Mr. Newsom.

Hello? Cellphones?

The Times/Siena poll is not using the tired old method of calling landline phone numbers. At this point, more than 90 percent of our respondents are reached on their cellphones, and more than 99 percent of our young respondents are reached by cellphone.

Taylor Swift effect?

My first instinct was to say, “No, of course not,” but …

I did not expect her Eras Tour to be the tour of the century, so I’m not sure I’m the best judge of the power of her appeal — which has clearly proven to be extraordinary. I’m not sure her 40-16 favorability rating in a recent NBC/WSJ poll quite does justice her appeal, either.

So I asked someone in my household who is far more knowledgeable on the matter whether Ms. Swift could be important in the election and she said: “I think she could. I think she has a ton of power.”

Now, even if she does make a difference, it would only be at the margin (right?). But if she did make a marginal difference, it wouldn’t be entirely without precedent. If you have a long memory, you might remember that Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement really might have decided the 2008 Democratic primary in Barack Obama’s favor, though I don’t think a T-Swift endorsement of Mr. Biden would be nearly as symbolic or surprising, given her previous support for Democratic candidates.

What are the shares by party?

In our last poll, Democrats, Republicans and independents each represented 30 percent of the electorate. I can’t remember getting a clean, 30-30-30 break before (7 percent weren’t sure and 3 percent identified with another party). I thought there was something kind of elegant about it.

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