Independents Prefer Conservative Policy Approaches on Spending, Energy, Education, and Health CareJanuary 1, 2011
Resurgent Republic conducted a survey of 1000 registered voters January 12-16, 2011, with full results available here. Following are key highlights pertaining to Independent voters:
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.
- By a two-to-one margin, voters say the federal government’s higher priority should be spending less to reduce the budget deficit rather than spending more to help the economy recover. Voters say the government should spend less by a 61 to 31 percent margin overall, including an 82 to 13 percent margin among Republicans and a 69 to 24 percent margin among Independents. While Democrats say the government should spend more by a 53 to 38 percent margin, the two-fifths of Democrats who prefer cutting spending indicates substantial appetite for deficit reduction.
- As Congress prepares to address the federal debt limit, two-thirds of voters prefer an option that includes either “drastic” or “substantial” spending cuts. Presented with three options, voters were split among the top two choices: 34 percent say the national debt limit should not be raised “even if that means forcing a choice between drastic spending cuts or defaulting on current obligations,” and 32 percent say the debt limit should be raised, but“only in exchange for substantial spending cuts.” Twenty-four percent say the debt limit should be raised, but not tied to spending cuts because “we cannot afford to short-change the investments needed to stimulate the economy.”
Even 57 percent of Democrats prefer an option with some form of spending cuts, 24 percent favor “drastic” spending cuts instead of an increase in the debt limit and 33 percent say it should be raised but tied to “substantial” spending cuts. Nearly 7 of 10 Independents prefer a solution that highlights spending cuts, 35 percent favor “drastic” spending cuts instead of an increase in the debt limit and 34 percent say the debt limit should be raised only if “substantial” spending cuts are made. A plurality of Republicans says the limit should not be raised (46 percent, with 29 percent saying it should be raised but tied to spending cuts).
- Voters – including majorities of Independents – agree with statements that we should cut spending levels to 2008 levels. When given the following pair of statements, voters agree that spending should be cut by a 55 to 30 percent margin, including a 67 to 29 percent margin among Independents:
Congressman A says we should not cut current spending to 2008 levels. The federal government has to do more during times of economic crisis, and spending by the government stimulates the economy and creates jobs.
Congressman B says we should cut current spending to 2008 levels, before the stimulus and bailout bills were passed. Individuals and families are making do with less, and the government needs to do the same to reduce the budget deficit.
Keeping the same argument against cutting current spending, but changing the focus of the argument for cuts to excessive spending hurting the economy yields a 50 to 41 percent margin supporting cuts, including 51 to 38 percent among Independents. Congressman B says we should cut current spending to 2008 levels, before the stimulus and bailout bills were passed. Excessive Federal spending and too much government has become a drag on the private sector economy, and threatens long-term prosperity.
Congressman B says we should cut current spending to 2008 levels, before the stimulus and bailout bills were passed. Excessive Federal spending and too much government has become a drag on the private sector economy, and threatens long-term prosperity.
- A majority of voters supports cancelling unspent stimulus money to reduce the deficit. Voters prefer cancelling the unspent stimulus money to reduce the deficit by a 50 to 43 percent margin, including a 52 to 38 percent margin among Independents.
- Voters across party lines support a pay freeze for Federal workers. Voters overall support a pay freeze for Federal employees by a 73 to 20 percent margin, including a 72 to 20 percent margin among Republicans, a 74 to 19 percent margin among Independents, and a 75 to 19 percent margin among Democrats.
- A majority of voters – including a plurality of Democrats – agrees that Social Security needs major reforms. Respondents were asked which of the following two statements they agree with more regarding Social Security:
Congressman A says that Social Security needs only minor reforms, with the primary goal being protecting benefits for seniors. Reforms like raising the retirement age or limiting benefits will break faith with workers who have paid into the system for decades.
Congressman B says Social Security needs major reforms in order to maintain the long-term viability of the program and save the federal budget. We need to consider raising the retirement age for younger workers, as well as limiting benefits for wealthy retirees.
Voters agree that Social Security needs major reform by a 52 to 39 percent margin overall, including a 58 to 33 percent margin among Republicans, a 56 to 37 percent margin among Independents, and a 48 to 44 percent margin among Democrats.
- Over three-fifths of voters say we need more offshore drilling, including a majority of Democratic voters. Voters overall agree that “we should not let one bad accident in the Gulf divert us from the importance of more offshore drilling to create jobs and make us less dependent on foreign oil” by a 63 to 33 percent margin, including a 51 to 42 percent margin among Democrats, a 62 to 33 percent margin among Independents, and a 79 to 18 percent margin among Republicans.
- Voters agree that “we should provide loan guarantees to stimulate construction of more nuclear plants, and open the Yucca Mountain storage facility in Nevada for nuclear waste.” Voters agree with this statement, rather than “the government should not encourage the building of more nuclear power plants in the U.S.” by a 52 to 40 percent margin overall, including a 54 to 37 percent margin among Independents and a 65 to 28 percent margin among Republicans. Democrats agree with the anti-nuclear statement by a 51 to 39 percent margin.
- Majorities of Republicans and Independents oppose teacher tenure for elementary and secondary education. Overall, voters agree that tenure “provides no incentive for teachers to improve their performance, and makes it virtually impossible to fire ineffective teachers” rather than “we need benefits like teacher tenure to reward teachers and help attract qualified people to the profession” by a 49 to 45 percent margin, including a 61 to 33 percent margin among Republicans and a 57 to 39 percent margin among Independents (Democrats agree that tenure is needed by a 59 to 34 percent margin).
- Voters overall approach a split on merit pay, with Independents and Republicans saying teacher pay should be tied to student performance. Even against an argument that “given the many factors that affect student achievement like the home environment, it is unfair to tie teacher pay to student performance,” voters support merit pay by a 48 to 45 percent margin, including a 51 to 43 percent margin among Independents and a 54 to 41 percent margin among Republicans.
Last June, we tested the same anti-merit pay argument against a pro-merit argument stating “teachers whose students learn more should be paid more, and teachers whose students learn less should be paid less,” and found opposition to merit pay by a 51 to 42 percent margin. Merit pay supporters are far better served by the argument that “teachers whose students learn more should be paid more, in order to attract good teachers and improve accountability.”
- A plurality of registered voters (49 to 44 percent) supports Republican plans to repeal and replace the health care reform bill, including a majority of Independents (54 to 36 percent support). Voters support repealing and replacing the bill by a 49 to 44 percent margin, with Independents supporting repeal and replace by a 54 to 36 percent margin. Overall intensity is balanced (37 percent strongly support and 34 percent strongly oppose), with Independents more intense in their preference for repeal (39 percent strongly support and 24 percent strongly oppose). Voters aren’t swayed one way or the other by arguments for and against repealing and replacing the law (50 to 44 percent overall), suggesting that they have already absorbed enough information on the subject and are settled in their views.
Overall, Independents’ support of plans to repeal and replace the health care law has remained steady since the midterm elections, even when comparing Independents who voted in 2010 and the broader cohort of Independents who are registered voters (54 to 36 percent support today compared to 57 to 31 percent support in November). When given arguments for and against repeal, the margin among Independents is identical to our post-election survey (51 to 40 percent today compared to 53 to 42 percent in November). Recent public polling has shown a slight positive bump in President Obama’s job approval