What Independents WantFred Barnes | Weekly Standard | February 1, 2011
If the House were composed solely of independents, it would pass the same conservative legislation as Republicans on Obamacare, the individual mandate, purchasing health insurance across state lines, spending, offshore oil drilling, and Social Security reform.
That’s the finding of Resurgent Republic, a Republican polling outfit that applied the views of independents to the House. For instance, 63 percent of independents opposed the mandate to buy health insurance in Resurgent Republic polling. That translated into 276 House seats, a solid majority.
The views of independents are crucial because they represent the nation’s critical bloc of swing voters. Their switch away from Democrats in 2010 produced a Republican landslide. Independents overwhelmingly voted for President Obama in 2008 and Democratic congressional candidates in 2006 and 2008.
The Resurgent Republic analysis found that independents favored conservative policies on 37 of 40 major issues. Only on three education issues – teacher certification, aid to private schools, and merit pay – were independents in the liberal camp, though the polling was mixed on merit pay. The most recent Resurgent Republic poll found them siding narrowly with conservatives on basing teacher pay partly on student performance.
The overall finding in Resurgent Republic’s mid-January poll was that independents have warmed a bit to President Obama personally but don’t agree with his policies, especially on health care.
Applying their views to the House, the right to purchase health insurance across state lines – which is currently illegal – would pass 334 to 101. Repeal of Obamacare would be approved 244 go 191, almost identical to the 245 to 189 vote for repeal in the House in January. Removing the individual mandate would pass 267 to 168.
On fiscal issues, the views of independents are remarkably conservative. Were they in charge, the House would vote 231 to 204 to cancel unspent economic stimulus funds and use the money to reduce the deficit. A measure to freeze total federal spending at 2010 levels would pass 260 to 175. The requirement of a two-thirds majority to pass new spending would be approved 282 to 153.
According to Resurgent Republic polling, independents began moving toward conservative positions as early as April 2009, three months after President Obama took office. The result was “a huge shift of the middle” from voting Democrat to voting Republican, says Resurgent Republic pollster Whit Ayres.
And that shift has “fundamentally not changed.” Independents remain today “where they have been – that is, closer to Republicans than Democrats,” Ayres says. But Obama’s job approval rating jumped to 53 percent in the mid-January nationwide poll conducted by Resurgent Republic. This was the first time it had broken the 50 percent mark in many months.