Additional Research

Concern over Direction of the Country and Democratic Agenda Motivated 2010 Voters

November 9, 2010
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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.



The Overall Political Climate



1. Independents and Republicans feel strongly that the country is off on the wrong track, while Democrats are much more positive in their outlook. Democrats who voted in the 2010 election say the country is going in the right direction by 55 to 33 percent. But Republicans think the country is off on the wrong track by 92 to 4 percent, and Independents by 79 to 14 percent. This fundamental pessimism about the direction of the country under Democratic control of the Presidency, the House and the Senate drove the overall election result.



2. Independents and Republicans overwhelmingly say government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals. Sixty percent of Independents say "government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals," versus only 34 percent who say "government should do more to solve problems and help meet the needs of people." That 60-34 percent margin among Independents is up from 55-40 in Resurgent Republic's survey in April 2009. Republicans agree with Independents that government is doing too much by 74 to 25 percent. But Democrats think government should do more by 76 to 21 percent.



3. 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. As with the direction of the country, Democrats stand on one side of the divide, while Republicans and Independents stand on the other. Seventy-two percent of Democrats place the blame for the current state of the country on former President Bush (48 percent) or Republicans in Congress (24 percent), while 82 percent of Republicans blame President Obama (43 percent) or Democrats in Congress (39 percent). Independents are much closer to Republicans, with 53 percent blaming President Obama (28 percent) or Democrats in Congress (25 percent) versus only 21 percent blaming President Bush (16 percent) or Republicans in Congress (5 percent).



Rationale for the 2010 Vote



1. 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.



2. 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.



Read the full report: Post-Election Poll Highlights: Independents Propel Republican Victories in 2010

Filed under: Political Climate and Polling Analysis