Pew poll confirms Independents jumping off Democrats’ ship

Posted on September 24, 2010

We’ve been hearing it for a while now, Democrats have been losing support of the Independents that helped them gain control of both houses of Congress in 2006 and the Presidency in 2008.  Now, only twenty months after his swearing in, President Obama, along with his Democrat cohorts, have managed to totally reverse the Independent support margin the Democrats had enjoyed.  From Pew Research:

For the third national election in a row, independent voters may be poised to vote out the party in power. The Republican Party holds a significant edge in preferences for the upcoming congressional election among likely voters, in large part because political independents now favor Republican candidates by about as large a margin as they backed Barack Obama in 2008 and congressional Democratic candidates four years ago. (emphasis mine)

Republican and Democratic voters overwhelmingly support their party’s candidates. The GOP’s advantage comes as a result of their 49%-to-36% lead among independent and other non-partisan voters who are likely to vote in November.

Independents’ voting preferences have changed considerably since the last two elections. Just two years ago, Obama held an eight-point lead among independents, according to exit polls by the National Election Pool. The shift since the 2006 midterm, when Democrats held an 18-point advantage among independents, according to the exit polls, has been even more dramatic.

If you’d like to read the details of the poll, you can click on the Pew Research link.  Suffice it to say, the number of independents have been growing in large part due to defections of those who were once affiliated with one of the major parties.  And while there is some support for President Obama and the Democrats among independents, the number of these independents who are going to vote is much lower than those independents who take a negative view of the Democrat’s agenda.

But, if the Republicans win back either the House, Senate, or both, they cannot revert to their old ways which caused them to lose their support in the first place.  The current make up of independents are highly skeptical of where party allegiances lie:

Independents have mixed views of which party can do better on major issues — but are distrustful of both. When asked why they are independents, fully 64% cite as a major reason that “both parties care more about special interests than about average Americans.” And 53% point to a lack of trust in either party as a major reason why they think of themselves as an independent in politics.

In fact, today’s independents are shaping up into something that resembles the TEA Party:

 Independents today are clearly more conservative than they were four years ago, particularly with respect to the role of government. Not only do more describe themselves as conservative, but more support smaller government, and there is more distrust and anger toward government generally.

While this ideological tide among independents benefits the GOP, there is a broader rejection of the party in power that also is influencing independent support for Republican candidates. Given their detachment from the parties and general skepticism about politics, independents’ views of president’s and the parties’ performance can and do change quickly. In this regard, the independent swing toward the GOP in 2010 has as much, if not more, to do with views of performance than with shifting ideological preferences.

So let that be a warning to the GOP.  If they do end up taking over the House and the Senate, they better try to stand and deliver or the support they’re enjoying now may not be there in 2012.