Midterm Voters Care About More Than Just Obama

Will voters really be casting their ballot out of spite or admiration for the president?

National Journal
Brian Resnick
March 12, 2014, 5:36 a.m.

“Are the midterm elec­tions a ref­er­en­dum on the pres­id­ency?” Get ready to hear that ques­tion posed in­cess­antly on cable news as the 2014 races heat up. The con­ven­tion­al wis­dom says the an­swer to that ques­tion is yes. But as Amer­ic­ans vote for their rep­res­ent­at­ives in Novem­ber, will they really be cast­ing their bal­lots out of spite or ad­mir­a­tion for the pres­id­ent?

Forty one per­cent of re­spond­ents in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journ­al poll say their vote in the up­com­ing elec­tion is “not a sig­nal either way about Obama.” Twenty-four per­cent say their vote will be a vote of sup­port for the pres­id­ent, while 33 per­cent say theirs will be a vote of dis­ap­prov­al. (These num­bers were sim­il­ar to the 2006 midterms, when George W. Bush saw a Demo­crat­ic turnover in the House.)

So, yes, Obama (whose ap­prov­al is now at 41 per­cent) will cast a shad­ow over the elec­tions this fall. Forty-two per­cent of re­spond­ents said a dir­ect Obama en­dorse­ment of a can­did­ate would make them less likely to vote for that can­did­ate. But as the poll re­veals, there are oth­er is­sues weigh­ing more heav­ily on voters’ minds.

Among Demo­crats, 81 per­cent say a can­did­ate’s will­ing­ness to raise the min­im­um wage will make a vote for them more likely; 75 per­cent say they’d be more will­ing to sup­port a can­did­ate who will fix the health care law.

Among Re­pub­lic­ans, 88 per­cent say re­du­cing spend­ing will draw their vote, while 70 per­cent say sup­port­ing the health care law’s re­peal will do the same.

But an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of both parties — 89 per­cent of Demo­crats and 86 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans — agree that they want can­did­ates who can com­prom­ise with the oth­er side. That might be easi­er said in a poll than ac­tu­ally done in the vot­ing booth, though. The is­sues that di­vide Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats are still po­lar­iz­ing. And, come this Novem­ber, those is­sues may be more in­flu­en­tial than the shad­ow of the pres­id­ent.

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