Worth Discussing

Poll: Independents fueled GOP wave

Jonathan Martin | November 9, 2010

Independent voters moved decisively to the Republican Party in last week’s election and are more sympathetic to the GOP on a host of policy questions, according to a new national poll.

Unaffiliated voters overwhelmingly think the country is on the wrong track, largely disapprove of President Barack Obama’s performance, and a plurality said they were voting for Republicans mostly to offer a check on the president and the Democratic majority.

“This wave as driven by independents voting for Republicans,” said GOP pollster Whit Ayres of his party’s electoral gains.

“This was an angry, protest election where people voted against the Democrats and the Obama agenda,” added Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg.

Ayres and Greenberg jointly conducted the survey for Resurgent Republic and Democracy Corps on behalf of the Bipartisan Policy Center ahead of the group’s summit this week in New Orleans.

The results illuminate what may be the most worrisome trend for Obama and Democrats in the two years since their political triumph – the flight of independent voters to the GOP.

Seventy-nine percent of independents think the country is headed in the wrong direction while just 14 percent believe it’s on the right track. Only 35 percent of independents approve of the job Obama is doing while 60 percent disapprove. And 43 percent of independents who supported a Republican congressional candidate said they did so to institute a check on the president and his party.

Independents have also swung to the right on issues, favoring the GOP on the economic issues which voters cited as their top priority.

Looking ahead, 51 percent of unaffiliated voters said they backed extending tax cuts across the board while 40 percent indicated a preference for not keeping the rates in place for the wealthy.

Even more striking, 57 percent of independents said they favored repealing the new health care law while only 31 percent said they opposed repeal.

But for all the good news for Republicans, the survey also indicates that voters want the two parties to work together – not exactly what many newly elected GOP officials have in mind.

Asked if they wanted their elected officials to stand on principle or compromise to pass laws, 61 percent of independents said they preferred conciliation while only 32 percent indicated ideology.

And independents, when given the choice, indicated that they wanted to see both parties move to the center rather than being more supportive of its core principles.

“Coming out of this election, voters want a different kind of politics,” said Greenberg.

The survey was conducted Nov. 2 and 3 among 886 voters nationwide who cast ballots last week. The duo also polled another 114 so-called drop-off voters who voted in 2008 but not this year to measure the preferences of those voters who sat out this election.

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Filed under: Independent Voters, Health Care, Democracy Corps, Democrats, Jonathan Martin, Republicans, James Carville, Stan Greenberg, 2010 Elections, and News