CONGRESS

Poll: Independents Are Angry, Despairing

The House Chamber fills in anticipation of South Korean President Lee Myung-baks address to a joint meeting of Congress in the US Capitol, in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)  
National Journal
Steven Shepard
Add to Briefcase
Steven Shepard
Dec. 13, 2011, 4:30 p.m.

Amer­ic­ans are as dis­gus­ted with their gov­ern­ment — and with Con­gress, in par­tic­u­lar — as they have ever been, and the over­whelm­ing dis­il­lu­sion­ment of in­de­pend­ents por­tends great elect­or­al un­cer­tainty next Novem­ber, ac­cord­ing to an ana­lys­is of the latest United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll.

Over­all, the poll shows that those voters aligned with neither party lack con­fid­ence in the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and are more eager to change the people who make up that gov­ern­ment. In­de­pend­ents are also sig­ni­fic­antly less con­fid­ent in the gov­ern­ment than they were last sum­mer, be­fore the bit­ter, scorched-earth fight over rais­ing the fed­er­al debt ceil­ing and the fail­ure of the su­per com­mit­tee to pro­duce a plan to re­duce the budget de­fi­cit.

Twenty-nine per­cent of re­spond­ents have “a lot” or “some con­fid­ence” that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment will make pro­gress over the next year on the most im­port­ant prob­lems fa­cing the coun­try. But among in­de­pend­ents, just 18 per­cent ex­press that level of con­fid­ence. A whop­ping 80 per­cent of in­de­pend­ents say they have “not much con­fid­ence” or “no con­fid­ence at all” in the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to make pro­gress next year.

The poll shows a sharp de­cline in in­de­pend­ents’ op­tim­ism just since late Ju­ly, as both polit­ic­al parties ramped up ne­go­ti­ations over the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment’s debt lim­it. The debt-ceil­ing fight and the su­per com­mit­tee’s fail­ure have taken a sig­ni­fic­ant toll on how Amer­ic­ans (and in­de­pend­ents in par­tic­u­lar) view the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. In the pre­vi­ous poll, 42 per­cent of voters and 36 per­cent of in­de­pend­ents said they had “a lot” or “some” con­fid­ence in the gov­ern­ment. Sixty-three per­cent of in­de­pend­ents said they had “not much” or “no con­fid­ence at all.”

Per­haps not sur­pris­ingly, Demo­crats re­tain the most con­fid­ence in gov­ern­ment, with 48 per­cent ex­press­ing some level of con­fid­ence, slightly lower than the 54 per­cent who ex­pressed some con­fid­ence in Ju­ly. Only 23 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans ex­press some con­fid­ence, down from 33 per­cent.

The United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll was con­duc­ted by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al, which sur­veyed 1,008 adults by land­line and cell phone from Dec. 8-11. It has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.7 per­cent­age points. The mar­gin of er­ror is high­er for sub­groups.

The poll is the latest in a series of na­tion­al sur­veys that will track the pub­lic’s pri­or­it­ies for Con­gress — and its as­sess­ment of Wash­ing­ton’s per­form­ance — dur­ing most weeks that Con­gress is in ses­sion through what is likely to be a tu­mul­tu­ous 2012.

Only a quarter of in­de­pend­ents — com­pared with 38 per­cent of Demo­crats and 34 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans — think their con­gres­sion­al rep­res­ent­at­ive has per­formed his or her job well enough to de­serve reelec­tion. Fifty-six per­cent of in­de­pend­ents say that it is time to give a new per­son a chance, com­pared with 49 per­cent of Demo­crats and 46 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans.

On this meas­ure, in­de­pend­ents’ views are vir­tu­ally un­changed from late Ju­ly, when 24 per­cent said they thought their mem­ber of Con­gress de­served to be reelec­ted and 60 per­cent pre­ferred a new per­son.

And only 7 per­cent of in­de­pend­ents said most oth­er mem­bers of Con­gress de­serve to be reelec­ted; 10 per­cent of all Amer­ic­ans be­lieve they do. This find­ing is stat­ist­ic­ally un­changed from Ju­ly.

In­de­pend­ents’ ca­pri­cious­ness has led to three con­sec­ut­ive tur­bu­lent con­gres­sion­al-elec­tion cycles. In 2006, in­de­pend­ents voted over­whelm­ingly for House Demo­crats, al­low­ing the party to re­claim both houses of Con­gress. Exit polls showed that 57 per­cent of in­de­pend­ents voted for the Demo­crat­ic can­did­ate for the House, while just 39 per­cent sup­por­ted the Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate.

In 2008, 51 per­cent of in­de­pend­ents voted for the Demo­crat­ic House can­did­ate, com­pared with 43 per­cent who voted for the Re­pub­lic­an, ac­cord­ing to exit polls. Pres­id­ent Obama won a sim­il­ar per­cent­age, 52 per­cent, of in­de­pend­ents, while Sen. John Mc­Cain, R-Ar­iz., won 44 per­cent.

But in 2010, in­de­pend­ents’ dis­con­tent led to the Re­pub­lic­an land­slide that gave the GOP con­trol of the House. Fifty-sev­en per­cent of in­de­pend­ents voted for the Re­pub­lic­an con­gres­sion­al can­did­ate, com­pared with just 37 per­cent for the Demo­crat­ic can­did­ate.

Asked wheth­er they prefer one-party con­trol of both cham­bers, or that the two parties should have split con­trol of Con­gress, an over­whelm­ing 65 per­cent ma­jor­ity of in­de­pend­ents sup­por­ted split con­trol “so the two cham­bers can act as a check on each oth­er,” ac­cord­ing to the new Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll.

Yet, with a pres­id­en­tial race at the top of the tick­et and con­fid­ence in gov­ern­ment near an all-time low, the great dis­con­tent with both parties means that the out­come in 2012 re­mains am­bigu­ous.

What We're Following See More »
STAKES ARE HIGH
Debate Could Sway One-Third of Voters
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 34% of registered voters think the three presidential debates would be extremely or quite important in helping them decide whom to support for president. About 11% of voters are considered 'debate persuadables'—that is, they think the debates are important and are either third-party voters or only loosely committed to either major-party candidate."

Source:
YOU DON’T BRING ME FLOWERS ANYMORE
Gennifer Flowers May Not Appear After All
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

Will he or won't he? That's the question surrounding Donald Trump and his on-again, off-again threats to bring onetime Bill Clinton paramour Gennifer Flowers to the debate as his guest. An assistant to flowers initially said she'd be there, but Trump campaign chief Kellyanne Conway "said on ABC’s 'This Week' that the Trump campaign had not invited Flowers to the debate, but she didn’t rule out the possibility of Flowers being in the audience."

Source:
HAS BEEN OFF OF NEWSCASTS FOR A WEEK
For First Debate, Holt Called on NBC Experts for Prep
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

NBC's Lester Holt hasn't hosted the "Nightly News" since Tuesday, as he's prepped for moderating the first presidential debate tonight—and the first of his career. He's called on a host of NBC talent to help him, namely NBC News and MSNBC chairman Andy Lack; NBC News president Deborah Turness; the news division's senior vice president of editorial, Janelle Rodriguez; "Nightly News" producer Sam Singal, "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd, senior political editor Mark Murray and political editor Carrie Dann. But during the debate itself, the only person in Holt's earpiece will be longtime debate producer Marty Slutsky.

Source:
WHITE HOUSE PROMISES VETO
House Votes to Bar Cash Payments to Iran
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The House passed legislation late Thursday that would prohibit the federal government from making any cash payments to Iran, in protest of President Obama's recently discovered decision to pay Iran $1.7 billion in cash in January. And while the White House has said Obama would veto the bill, 16 Democrats joined with Republicans to pass the measure, 254-163."

Source:
NO SURPRISE
Trump Eschewing Briefing Materials in Debate Prep
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In contrast to Hillary Clinton's meticulous debate practice sessions, Donald Trump "is largely shun­ning tra­di­tion­al de­bate pre­par­a­tions, but has been watch­ing video of…Clin­ton’s best and worst de­bate mo­ments, look­ing for her vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies.” Trump “has paid only curs­ory at­ten­tion to brief­ing ma­ter­i­als. He has re­fused to use lecterns in mock de­bate ses­sions des­pite the ur­ging of his ad­visers. He prefers spit­balling ideas with his team rather than hon­ing them in­to crisp, two-minute an­swers.”

Source:
×