The 2010 mid-term election was a stunning rebuke to the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress. Much of that rebuke was driven by Independents, who comprised 28 percent of the electorate and supported Republican congressional candidates by the overwhelming margin of 56 to 38 percent. That represents a dramatic 36-point turnaround from the last mid-term election in 2006, when Independents supported Democratic congressional candidates by 57 to 39 percent. Given that an equal percentage of Democrats and Republicans voted in 2010 (36 percent), these Independent voters clearly played a decisive role in the Republican gains.
Since our inaugural survey in April 2009, Resurgent Republic has been chronicling the migration of Independents away from Democrats and toward Republicans, driven by their strong opposition to Democratic fiscal and health care initiatives. Our 2010 post-election survey, conducted jointly with Democracy Corps, demonstrates clearly how Independent voters are now far closer to Republicans than Democrats on their outlook on the direction of the country, their attitudes about its political leadership, and their policy preferences.
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.
The Democratic versus Republican/Independent divide flows through to critical issue debates such as extending tax cuts. Moreover, the Obama health care reform plan became an albatross around the necks of Democratic candidates, and our post-election survey shows why.
We should extend the tax cuts for everyone, except the wealthy. Cutting taxes permanently for the middle class and raising them for those earning over $250,000 is necessary to reduce the federal deficit and protect Social Security.
We should extend the tax cuts for everyone. Raising taxes on anyone in a weak economy is a bad idea, and tax increases would hit small businesses especially hard. Increasing taxes on the people who create jobs is exactly the wrong medicine for a struggling economy.
2010 voters overall prefer extending the tax cuts for everyone by 49 to 45 percent, including a majority of Independents (51 to 40 percent) and Republicans (74 to 21 percent). Democrats prefer extending them for all except those making over $250,000 by a margin of 69 to 26 percent.
2010 voters, including Independents and Republicans, support repealing the health care bill even after strong statements providing the rationale on both sides.
We should improve but not repeal the health care reform law, because the insurance companies will lobby to win back the right to drop people or jump their rates if they get sick or have a pre-existing condition and the right to re-impose life time limits and raise rates. We should make changes that keep costs down, but not repeal it.
We should repeal the Obama health care reform law, and replace it with reforms to lower costs, allow people to keep the coverage they have now, and give individuals the same tax breaks businesses get to provide health care insurance. Obama's law will drive health care costs through the roof and bankrupt the country.
2010 voters prefer the second statement in support of repeal and replace by 48 to 45 percent. Democrats prefer the first statement against repeal by 73 to 17 percent, while Independents prefer the second statement in favor of repeal by 53 to 42 percent, as do Republicans by 81 to 14 percent.
2010 voters, particularly Independents, think that the GOP would do a better job with economic and fiscal issues that are their dominant concerns. Voters trust Republicans to do a better job than Democrats on:
• jobs and employment by a margin of 46-38, and 50-27 (+23) among Independents.
• the economy by a margin of 47-38, and 48-25 (+23) among Independents.
• government spending by a margin of 49-31, and 50-23 (+27) among Independents.
• the federal budget deficit by a margin of 49-32, and 53-17 (+36) among Independents.
• taxes by a margin of 51-35, and 54-23 (+31) among Independents.
Republicans taking control of the U.S. House and increasing their numbers in the U.S. Senate are in the position of having a majority of Independent swing voters on the same side of the most pressing issues as core Republican voters. At the moment, it is the Democrats who are "whipsawed" between the voters in the middle of the electorate and their core supporters.
Whether it's not raising taxes on any part of the population (including "the rich") or repealing and replacing Obamacare, Republicans enjoy this advantage. This is true not only with those who voted earlier this month, but with the projected electorate for 2012.
This advantage is likely rooted in the overwhelming advantage enjoyed by Republicans with Independent voters when it comes to the economic and fiscal issue set. So long as Republicans are tying their legislative efforts back to the issue of jobs and economy, they are likely to continue to enjoy a high level of support among Independent swing voters who are more concerned about the impact of Federal policies than the principles which underlie them.
Consequently, in order to maintain Independents’ approval, Republican arguments in support of their policies to repeal and replace health care, extend the Bush tax cuts, reduce the deficit and others should be tied directly back to the positive effects these policies would have on jobs and the economy. Conservative/Republican voters will agree with the proper role of government arguments that are critical rationales for these policies, but it will be important that the voters who played such a decisive role in the mid-term elections see them in the context of the current Republican advantage on jobs and the economy.
This survey consists of 1000 respondents who voted in the 2008 election, with a subsample of 886 respondents who voted in the 2010 election. Republican, Independent, and Democratic numbers are based on the 2010 voters. All calls were conducted Tuesday evening, November 2, and Wednesday, November 3, 2010. Respondents were selected randomly in each state from a random-digit-dialing sample including both cell phone and landline telephone numbers. Responses are weighted for demographics and in the case of 2010 voters, to match the national vote for U.S. House of Representatives as determined by exit polls.
The margins of error for responses with an even split – 50 percent for one response and 50 percent for another response – is ±3.10 percent for the full sample, ±3.29 percent for 2010 voters, ±5.47 percent for Republicans, ±5.90 percent for Independents, and ±5.83 percent for Democrats. The margin of error is smaller when one response receives a higher level of support. For example, the margin of error is ±2.68 percent when 75 percent of respondents in the full sample choose one response and 25 percent choose another response.
The survey was conducted jointly by Ayres, McHenry & Associates and Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research.