‘Voters are looking for change — but not what the Republicans are offering’
It’s the economy, stupid.
That catchphrase from the 1992 election — which saw Bill Clinton propelled to the Oval Office on a wave of discontent over unemployment — applies just as strongly in 2010, a new poll indicates.
The exit poll (PDF) from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research suggests that while voters gave control of the House to the Republicans, it was not out of a desire to return to Republican policies, but rather out of a lack of other options.
The poll shows voters largely rejected the narrative put forward by Republicans: That the American public rebelled against the liberal-minded over-reaching of the Obama administration.
Roughly even numbers of Democratic, Republican and independent voters — about three-quarters in each case — said the economy was a factor in their vote. No other issue polled nearly as high.
Dissatisfaction with the available political options was also high, with 26 percent of voters saying their vote was a “message to both parties” that they are unsatisfied with the state of US politics. By contrast, 20 percent said the vote was a message specifically targeted at President Obama.
That appears to mesh with a recent poll showing 54 percent of voters would like to see a viable third party rise in the US.
“The results show that voters weren’t necessarily allying themselves with the GOP, but rather were voicing their disapproval with Washington as a whole,” writes Andy Kroll at Mother Jones.
Nor did voters generally align themselves with Republican talking points. Even a majority of self-identified Republicans — 62 percent — said they wanted lawmakers to “keep their hands off” Social Security when addressing the budget deficit. Among all voters, 68 percent opposed cuts to Social Security.
Voters preferred Democratic ideas for tackling the budget deficit. Fifty-one percent said they wanted to see an end to the Bush tax cuts for the rich and a new bank tax to address the deficit, while 39 percent backed the GOP’s proposals to cut $100 billion from domestic spending, raise the retirement age and cancel unspent stimulus funds.
Sixty-six percent of voters agreed with President Obama’s declaration that “we have to reduce our deficits, but [also] make investments in education, in research and innovation” and “we have to lead in the new energy, Green industrial revolution sweeping the world.”
The survey likely comes as no surprise to voters but it’s “a welcome corrective here in Washington, where the conventional wisdom suggests a GOP revival supposedly spurred by voters’ newfound embrace of the Republican Party’s ideas, however scarce they may be,” Mother Jones‘ Kroll writes.
The survey did note a not-insignificant shift in how voters identified themselves politically. Forty-seven percent identified as conservative, up from 39 percent in 2008 and 40 percent in 2006. Those identifying as liberals fell from 20 percent to 15. But those numbers are largely in line with long term trends.
“This was a protest election — with voters angry about the president and Congress’ performance on the economy and absence of economic direction and vision, the bailouts and spending, inattention to the economy as reflected in the long-battle over health care and the poisonous partisan politics that carried on right through the crisis,” the study’s authors write.
“Voters are looking for change — but not what the Republicans are offering. The Republicans’ image stands no higher than in 2008 and 2006 elections. A large majority of voters remain hopeful for the president and clearly want him to succeed. … Republicans should not misread the mandate and the changes that came out of this big election.”
The poll surveyed 897 voters and has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points among likely voters. It was carried out for Democracy Corps, a progressive strategy group, and the Campaign for America’s Future, a political group tied to the Democratic Party.