A Look at the November Elections by Lou Harris
With just under a month to go, this most bizarre off-year election appears to be ready for at least one more major change. Americans are once again venting their distress at the ruling Democratic and Republican parties. Many families are suffering economically, and few seem optimistic that any quick or effective relief or improvement is in the offing. Hopes are not high. Confidence in current leadership is low.
But, the bottom line is that the latent, discouraged Democratic electorate is waking up from its lethargy of last summer when the Republicans seemed to have convinced the vast majority of voters that they had the Congressional election all wrapped up. Currently, among registered voters, if there is a Tea Party candidate in the race, the Democrats lead 43% to Republicans’ 30% and 9% for the Tea Party candidate. Assuming most Tea Party candidates are running as Republicans, not a separate Tea Party line, this makes the Democrats lead by 4%.
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,031 adults, of whom 1,784 are registered voters, surveyed online between September 29 and October 1, 2010 by Harris Interactive.
This latest Harris Poll dramatically demonstrates that major elements that mobilized Obama’s victory in the 2008 election have now been awakened again to make sure eccentric, Tea Party inspired candidates don’t take over the country under a Republican-Tea Party banner. Interestingly, these voters tend to be women, who constitute a majority of the electorate and counterbalance the majorities of men who tend to vote Republican.
Many women have also recently taken a close look at various races around the country. However, for example, when it comes to Christine O’Donnell, Republican Senate candidate in Delaware and Meg Whitman, Republican gubernatorial candidate in California, women voters seem to be concluding that these women should not hold high office. There is similar evidence that young people may also be reacting to the types of nominees now representing the Tea Party.
Despite signs that the Democratic base maybe awakening, the long and steady deterioration of confidence in President Obama continues. The reason for this is evident. On his handling of the economy, his favorable rating is 64% negative (36% positive). When this survey asked about a new program to give major incentives to businesses to hire new employees, a 53% to 30% majority rejected this idea. The reason: when the current federal government and the business sector collaborate on a program, the public believes it will end up with the businesses getting paid handsomely, and the American public will be the ones left suffering on the sidelines. The example, millions of Americans believe, is the Tarp program which saved the banks but did not provide one new job to Americans out of work.
Now, as the election enters its final month and nears the November 2nd showdown, it appears a new dominant fear has overtaken the electorate. The fear is that the Republicans will once more take over Congress. The Republican Party has taken on a new image that, in the end, could prove fatal to the GOP.
I believe in this election year, the Republican Party peaked too early. They spent a solid year hammering away at the line that Obama was bankrupting the country with an out of control spending spree on programs that were ineffective and that did not help the plight of the American people. The “change for the good” that the Obama campaign promised was tabbed a dismal failure. His positive approval ratings dropped dramatically and the Democrats looked like big time losers.
By the end of this past August, the base of the Democratic Party was deeply discouraged and showed every sign of not even wanting to come out to vote in November. A real contributor to proving that the Democrats had failed was the rise of the Tea Party movement. The wild demonstrations that swept Town Hall meetings were taken to mean a new day had arrived in American politics. A new, militant conservative movement was believed to have stolen the imprimatur of change.
Hoping to revive the 2008 Democratic base became a major occupation of Democrat strategies. None of these retreat strategies seemed to work and the general Congressional vote showed double digit leads for the Republicans into early September. And, at the same time, the Tea party movement got bolder by the minute. They began to win primaries for U.S. Senate and Governor seats. Most Republican leaders thought the Tea Party organization would happily integrate its winning efforts into a new and revitalized Republican Party.
One specific example shows how this did not work. Early in September, the victorious Tea Party candidates demonstrated openly who they really were. They turned out to be a brand new breed of public figures, who unfortunately for them, were symbolized by the Tea Party upset of moderate Mike Castle in Delaware by a Tea party candidate Christine O’Donnell. After she won the nomination Republican leaders discovered they were in a lose-lose situation if they either opposed her or endorsed her. The national GOP leadership decided to endorse her. Then, comedian Bill Maher released tapes when she was a guest on his show where she talked about being a witch and her views on sexual practices. While most of the others are not as extreme as Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party was branded with the image of being a damaging, extremist lot who were about to take over the Republican Party.
What does all this mean for the November election? The 2010 mid-year election may shape up to be an election of radical change. The change may be away from the Republican strengths of the early summer and early fall to Democrats making it a close election.
This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between September 29 and October 1, 2010 among 2,031 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.
All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.
Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.
The full data tables associated with this release can be found here.
These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
By Louis Harris, Founder, The Harris Poll
About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for The Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next.