The first independent survey of American voters’ attitudes about the country’s future and the challenges facing the next Congress showed that voters sent a “stunning rebuke to the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress,” according to pollsters Ed Gillespie, Whit Ayres and Leslie Sanchez of Resurgent Republic, which conducted the poll with Democracy Corps for the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC).
The survey was released Tuesday morning (Nov. 9) at the BPC’s second annual post-election summit at Tulane University.
“Our 2010 post-election survey, conducted jointly with Democracy Corps, demonstrates clearly how Independent voters are now far closer to Republicans than Democrats in their outlook on the direction of the country, their attitudes about its political leadership, and their policy preference,” the pollsters said.
Here are the highlights of the survey’s findings:
• The 2010 Republican wave was driven by Independent voters, who had a swing of 36 percentage points compared to 2006 — from supporting Democrats in 2006 to supporting Republicans in 2010.
• Independents and Republicans feel strongly is off on the wrong track while democrats are much ore positive in their outlook.
• Independents and Republicans overwhelmingly say government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.
• While Democrats blame former President Bush and Republicans in Congress for the country being on the wrong track, Republicans and Independents blame President Obama and Democrats in Congress.
• The same pattern holds for President Obama’s job approval, where Democratic voters overwhelmingly approve while Republicans and Independents overwhelmingly disapprove.
• On a 2012 Presidential ballot test pitting President Obama versus a generic Republican candidate, the generic Republican leads among all 2010 voters by a 50-40 percent margin, and by a 2-1 margin among Independents.
Looking at the poll results, pollsters noted several things, starting with the fact that Republicans comprised 36 percent of the vote in the 2008 and 2010 elections, which underscores the huge Independent “swing” from Democrats in 2006 to Republicans in 2010. In 2006, GOP candidates won 30 percent of Independents, but that level of support jumped to 56 percent in 2010. “Independents now look like Republicans rather than like Democrats," said Whit Ayres, adding that Independents “trust Republicans more than they trust Democrats” to effectively deal with the nation’s economic and health care issues.
“This was about Democrats,” added pollster Stan Greenberg of Democracy Corps, adding that Republicans’ “standing” among voters this year was the same as it was in 2008. “This was about Democrats crashing down the level that Republicans were,” he said, noting that “voters were angry” and sent a message to Democrats. He added that “this was a ‘seniors election.’ … Young voters almost dropped out [this year, whereas] seniors turned out in record numbers.” Greenberg added that both parties should not assume that future elections will see that same demographic composition.
“This was a surge of conservatives against Obama, fueled by the Tea Party,” Greenberg said. “Many of the things that produced this landslide are almost immediately in question … [starting with] the composition of the electorate.” Greenberg stressed the role that unmarried women play in the Democratic base. That group includes 20 percent of the nation’s voters, he said, but they turned out in substantially smaller numbers on Nov. 2.
Here’s what Resurgent Republic pollsters identified as the “rationale” for the 2010 mid-term election outcomes:
• 2010 was a nationalized referendum on President Obama and Democratic control of Congress, not just a series of choices between two candidates. Which party would control Congress was a factor in deciding a Congressional vote for 61 percent of 2010 voters, including 74 percent of Republicans, 57 percent of Democrats, and 51 percent of Independents. Among voters who supported the Republican candidate, 44 percent say their vote was a vote for the particular Republican candidate, 34 percent say it was a vote to provide a check on the agenda of President Obama and Democrats, and 14 percent say it was a vote against the Democrat.
• A plurality (43 percent) of Independent voters who voted Republican said their vote was driven by a desire to provide a check on President Obama and the Democrats, versus 30 percent who voted for the Republican candidate and 19 percent who voted against the Democratic candidate. Among voters who supported the Democratic candidate, 43 percent say it was a vote to support the agenda of President Obama and Democrats, 43 percent say it was a vote for the particular Democratic candidate, and 10 percent say it was a vote against the Republican. Among Independents who voted Democrat, 46 percent voted for the Democratic candidate, 31 percent voted to support the agenda of President Obama and the Democrats, and 17 percent voted against the Republican
• Issue positions were relatively more important to Republican than Democratic voters. Forty-six percent of Republicans say issue positions were the most important reason why they voted for their preferred candidate for Congress, versus 30 percent for character and leadership abilities, and 21 percent for the political party. Among Democratic voters, 38 percent say character and leadership, 35 percent say issue positions, and 22 percent say party. Independents fall between the two partisan groups, with 41 percent saying character and leadership, 40 percent saying issue positions, and 16 saying percent party.
More details about the poll are available online at Resurgent Republic and Democracy Corps. It should be noted that Resurgent Republic is considered a Republican-leaning firm whereas Democracy Corps’ pollster, Stan Greenberg, worked in the Clinton White House. In releasing the poll results at Tulane, the pollsters noted that there were not partisan differences between them in crafting and conducting the survey. They do take slightly different messages away from some nuances of the poll results, which makes it a good idea to check out both Web sites to get a balanced view.
The survey consisted of telephone interviews with 1,000 voters nationwide, of whom 886 voted on Nov. 2, 2010, and the remaining 114 voted in 2008 but not 2010. The poll was taken Nov. 2-3 and reflected the electorate casting ballots on Nov. 2. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.