Additional Research

Independents and Republicans Still Believe the Country is on the Wrong Track

January 20, 2011

Independent voters, who drove the Republican wave in the 2010 election, continue to prefer conservative over liberal policies on fiscal issues, energy, education, and health care. As was the case throughout the fall campaign, Independents look a lot more like Republicans than Democrats in their policy choices, even when considering the broader sample of registered voters.


  1. Independents and Republicans continue to say the country is off on the wrong track by wide margins. Voters overall say the country is off on the wrong track by a 57 to 34 percent margin, including a 64 to 24 percent margin among Independents and an 81 to 13 percent margin among Republicans (Democrats say the country is heading in the right direction by a 61 to 29 percent margin). Our post-election survey conducted jointly with Democracy Corps found that 2010 voters said the country was on the wrong track by a 66 to 26 percent margin, including a 79 to 14 percent margin among Independents and a 92 to 4 percent margin among Republicans.

  2. The economy remains the most important problem, with Independents and Republicans saying their family’s financial situation has gotten worse in the last two years. Nearly half of registered voters (48 percent) cite the economy as the most important problem, consistent with results from the last several years. Overall, 42 percent of voters say their family’s economic situation is about the same as two years ago (36 percent of Republicans, 38 percent of Independents, and 49 percent of Democrats) and 38 percent say their economic situation is worse than two years ago (52 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of Independents, and 25 percent of Democrats).

  3. Three-fifths of voters now hold the Obama Administration at least somewhat responsible for the current state of the economy. Twenty-two percent of voters say the Obama Administration is very responsible for the current state of the economy and 41 percent say the Administration is somewhat responsible.

  4. Majorities of Independents and Republicans say the “government is trying to do more things than it can do well, things that should be left to the private sector and individuals.” Democrats say “government should do more to solve problems and help meet the needs of people,” by a 72 to 22 percent margin, driving an overall margin of 49 to 46 percent. But Independents (53 to 40 percent) agree with Republicans (69 to 29 percent) that government is doing too much.

  5. Independents view the Tea Party Movement and Republicans in Congress more favorably than Democrats in Congress. Overall, voters view the Tea Party Movement slightly unfavorably: by a 38 to 42 percent favorable to unfavorable margin, but with a net-positive image among Republicans (71 to 12 percent) and Independents (41 to 39 percent). Republicans in Congress have a net favorable rating overall, 45 to 42 percent, including a 44 to 40 percent rating among Independents. With an upside-down margin of 31 to 56 percent, Democrats in Congress remain on the wrong side of Independents and draw a split rating overall, 45 to 46 percent.

  6. President Obama’s job approval has improved since the mid-term elections in November. The President has seen improvement among these registered voters, with a good month including working with Republicans in Congress to extend tax cuts and a well-received speech in Tucson after the tragic Arizona shooting. He currently holds a 53 to 44 percent job approval rating (compared to 44 to 52 percent among 2010 voters in November) and a 55 to 41 percent favorable to unfavorable rating. Nancy Pelosi (32 to 52 percent favorable to unfavorable) and Harry Reid (21 to 34 percent favorable to unfavorable) have not seen similar improvements since the election.

  7. Despite improvement in his approval rating, President Obama leads a generic Republican by just three points, and falls well below 50 percent. President Obama holds a 43 to 40 percent lead over a generic Republican, trailing 39 to 33 percent among Independent voters.

Read the full report: Fiscal Issues Remain the Dominant Concern of Voters; Independents Prefer Conservative Policy Approaches on Spending, Energy, Education, and Health Care

Filed under: Political Climate, Independent Voters, Obama Approval Rating, Polling Analysis, Generic Ballot, Tea Party, and Party Identification