Over the past few years, folks like me have pointed out many times that Republicans have, almost as one, changed their minds on the wisdom of a number of important policies, for no apparent reason other than the fact that Barack Obama embraced them. The most notable ones are "cap and trade," which used to be a conservative way to harness the power of markets to address climate change, but then became a sinister government power grab to force everyone to huddle in the cold as the useless solar panels on their roofs provided only enough power to run a tiny hotplate; and the individual health insurance mandate, which used to be a Heritage Foundation-crafted idea to use the power of markets to achieve universal private insurance coverage and avoid single-payer health care, then became the greatest threat to freedom the world has seen since Joseph Stalin was laid to rest.
Yet for all the (deserved) ridicule, there's something almost rational lying underneath these changes in position. While it's true that the individual mandate was born at the Heritage Foundation, it isn't as though more than a few conservatives had particularly strong feelings about it prior to 2009. By now, of course, they've had lots of time to consider it, so they should be able to see clearly what it is and isn't. But as a general matter, the less you've thought about an issue, the more your partisan attachments should function as a heuristic to help you decide what you believe. After all, if you're a conservative, Barack Obama does indeed have different values than you on many matters, and if he is for something, there's at least a fair chance that, if you had all the time and information in the world, you'd decide you're against it.
Which brings me to an interesting poll the Washington Post just released, in which they tested people's opinions on four issues, but randomly assigned respondents to hear a particular position described with and without Barack Obama's name attached to it. The results were pretty striking: