A poll released today by the Campaign for America’s Future and Democracy Corps proves what we’ve been saying this week about the message voters were sending to the White House and Congress. Conservative leaders in both parties are flat wrong to claim they have a mandate for the dramatic government retrenchment that top congressional Republicans are calling for.
What a majority of Americans want is for the government to step up to the plate, repair the economy and set the stage for creating new jobs—not by stepping back and lavishing tax cuts on the wealthy but with policies that revive American manufacturing, fix bad trade deals, and invests in the basics we need for a thriving domestic economy and a growing middle class.
“We were rather surprised in many ways at the fact that the voters in large numbers are still looking for larger answers to an economy that is not working for therm in a situation that they find for the country very worrisome,” Robert Borosage said during a presentation of the poll earlier today.
“People are not looking for a cramped vision,” pollster Stan Greenberg said. “Folks are not looking for a period of austerity. They are looking for a period of growth and for America not being in decline but being on the rise.”
The survey covers interviews with 1,000 people who voted in 2008 on Nov. 2 and Nov. 3, including 114 who decided not to vote in the 2010 election, to determine the issues driving both voters and nonvoters on Election Day.
Some noteworthy poll findings:
- Fifty-eight percent of respondents who voted said they were trying to send a message about how dissatisfied they are with things in Washington. But they were not necessarily embracing the Republican party and its policies: Both political parties received equally poor favorability ratings, as did the Tea Party movement. Twenty-six percent of voters said they were trying to send a message to “both parties” with their vote, while only 20 percent cited President Obama and 15 percent said Democrats in Congress.
- “Too much bickering in Washington” was the top complaint of voters in the poll (39 percent), followed by “too much spending, taxes and deficits” (35 percent).
- A majority opposed the Republican plan to cut $100 billion from domestic spending programs while extending the Bush tax cuts to those earning more than $250,000, while 51 percent said they agreed that those top-end tax cuts should expire and with proposals offered by Democrats to reduce the deficit over time. That’s particularly bad news for House Republican leader John Boehner and Senate counterpart Mitch McConnell, who are making perpetuating the Bush top-end tax cuts plus deep domestic spending cuts the centerpiece of their legislative agenda.
- Likewise, 69 percent said that “politicians should keep their hands off Social Security and Medicare” as they attempt to address the national deficit.
- Fifty-eight percent of voters said they were much or somewhat more likely to vote for a candidate that promised “to change Washington for the middle class. That means eliminating the special deals and tax breaks won by corporate lobbyists for Wall Street, paid for by American taxpayers and workers’ outsourced jobs. Republicans have pledged to protect those breaks. We should cut taxes for the middle class and small business to create jobs.”
- Compared to a candidate who attacked Democrats for the economic stimulus and health care reform, 57 percent of voters said they were much or somewhat more likely to support a candidate with a “made-in-America” campaign message that points out that Republicans have “pledged to support free trade deals and protect tax breaks for companies that send American jobs to India and China.”
- Eighty-nine percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement that “America is falling behind” in the global economy and that “we need a clear strategy to make things in America, make our economy competitive, and revive America’s middle class.”
- Significant majorities in the poll also supported new investments in infrastructure through a national infrastructure bank, and a five-year strategy for reviving manufacturing in America
Many of the poll results show that progressives have a lot of work to do to convince a broad majority of voters that they can once again trust government to act in their interests. But progressives have an opportunity to make that case and to get voters to embrace their vision for how the economy can work for everyone. It can’t be stressed enough: the Democrats got a “shellacking,” to use President Obama’s word, on Tuesday not because America has fallen in love with so-called “Tea Party” policies, but because Democrats failed to offer their own compelling vision for restoring the economy.
The White House and Democrats in Congress would do well to study this poll. The election would clearly have turned out differently if Democrats had presented a more populist, more progressive and more coherent message about the road ahead.