Progressive polling post-mortem from Stan Greenberg & Robert Borosage

by: Paul Rosenberg

Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 15:00


This morning I participated in a briefing with pollster Stan Greenberg and Campaign for America's Future co-director Robert Borosage, based on an election post-mortem poll done by Greenberg's firm, Greenberg Quinlin Rosner, which Greenberg has been doing every election since 1996.  From the advance press release:

"Democrats and the President paid a big price for failing to make a case for bold action on the economy, and for continuing Bush's Wall Street policies," said Borosage.

"Those suggesting this election represents an ideological shift are simply wrong," said Greenberg. "Voters are not buying what Republicans are selling, particularly cuts in Social Security and Medicare, education and the environment. And, voters are offended by the partisan posturing which Republicans will have a hard time transcending even with the House majority. Americans are still looking for answers, and not happy with the ones they've been getting from either party."

The main thrust of their presentation was that this was a protest-the-way-things-are-going-in-Washington election rather than an ideological one.  Indeed, what's happened since Democrats came to power is that their failure to change how Washington works has eroded support for them, without substantially improving the Republicans' standing:


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While Obama's approval rating has declined this year because of his failure to overcome how Washington works, he's still in much better shape than Clinton was in 1994:


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What's more, a pro-investment message directly contradicting the GOP would be wildly popular:


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More findings on the flip.  I'll have another diary about this poll later in the day as well.

Paul Rosenberg :: Progressive polling post-mortem from Stan Greenberg & Robert Borosage
Here are the key bullet points released along with presentation:

•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).

•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."

•Sixty-nine percent said that "politicians should keep their hands off Social Security and Medicare" as they attempt to address the national deficit.

•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.

•Significant majorities in the poll supported new investments in infrastructure through a national infrastructure bank, a five-year strategy for reviving manufacturing in America

A shift away from neo-liberalism, and back toward the traditional social democratic core values of the Democratic Party holds up well, as reflected in a number of different alternatives presented.  Bear in mind, this is an extremely conservative electorate that's endorsing these traditional Democratic alternatives in the following pairings:

First, hands off Social Security:


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Then, a Democratic approach to tax cuts and deficit reduction:


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Things get more muddled combining the two (but remember, this is VERY conservative electorate):


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But the Democratic advantage emerges quite strongly when the frame of comparison is expanded:


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The immigration issue (again--conservative electorate) again tips Republican, in part because it's a narrower frame once again:


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And "free trade" fares more poorly against a more robust alternative:


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Than in this alternative:


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These are some of the component attitudes that all combine to produce the enormously popular alternative presented above the fold, which I just can't resist concluding with again:


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Democrats still hold a winning hand, if only they're willing to play it.


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I essentially agree (0.00 / 0)
Indeed, what's happened since Democrats came to power is that their failure to change how Washington works has eroded support for them, without substantially improving the Republicans' standing

But how -- in fact -- do you think the Democrats are going to move?  If they do move right, how do we hold (or draw) the line?

For the wheel's still in spin And there's no tellin' who That it's namin'. -- Dylan


All of which is wonderful news and fairly encouraging (0.00 / 0)
EXCEPT for the reality that Obama & Dems are hugely unlikely to meaningfully fight for any of these things in any substantial manner, because they're amoral and unprincipled cowards who are only interested in getting reelected, pleasing their corporate donors, and not rocking the center-right DC boat or displeasing David Broder.

As always, the question isn't what's the right policy in terms of its own merits or its political appeal, but what pols in both parties are going to do about it. And if past is prologue, it's likely to be relatively little. Despite Obama and the establishment media's claim, the problem isn't too much partisanship, per se, but too much far-right partisanship, and too little left-wing partisanship. This has been true since the Clinton years. Repubs keep moving things rightward, and Dems keep following them, ignoring the public and good policy ideas.

I don't know how we get this near-term, with President Stockholm Syndrome in charge (that's where they gave him the Nobel, isn't it? how apt).

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton


The Democrats Are By No Means Monolithic (0.00 / 0)
Or else you'd be right, and we should all just move to France.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I was referring to Obama & most powerful Dems (0.00 / 0)
Even liberals like Pelosi & Boxer are too timid, and most of the rest of them are corporatist centrists looking to cut deals for their top donors. Not monolithic, but way too skewed towards neoliberalism.

And what's wrong with France? Most of my best friends have moved or thought about moving there.

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton


[ Parent ]
Move to France is what I think.... (0.00 / 0)
I have been interested in politics since the 60s.  The movements in the 60s got us pretty far, and I thought we had done a better than average job of  "fixing things" .  40 years later, I'm fed up, done, and ready to move to France, Norway, anywhere but here.  

[ Parent ]
Fair trade won a mandate (4.00 / 4)
http://www.citizen.org/documen...

House Democrats that ran on fair trade platforms in competitive and open- seat races were three times as likely to survive the GOP tidal wave than Democrats who ran against fair trade, according to a comprehensive 182-race, 70-page report released today by Public Citizen. The GOP tsunami obliterated many candidate-specific features of the midterm contests, but trade, job offshoring and/or government purchases of foreign-made goods were a stunningly persistent national focus of midterm election campaigns, with 205 candidates campaigning on these issues. A record number of 75 Republicans adopted some fair trade messaging as well, 43 of whom won their races.
More than sixty races became "fair trade offs," where both the Democrat and Republican ran on fair trade themes. Only 37 candidates campaigned in favor of more North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)-style trade agreements - about half of these candidates lost.

So naturally Obama is pushing "free" trade pacts.



Despite the auto bailouts, Michigan went DEEP RED. (0.00 / 0)
Gov, AG, SOS, House, Senate and two corporate Republican Supreme Court justices (which the Republicans actively campaigned for) swept our state.  From deep blue to beet red....  

[ Parent ]
They are not (4.00 / 3)
Democrats still hold a winning hand, if only they're willing to play it.

There is little new information here - as you've rightly pointed out, similar results have been demonstrated consistently for decades.  We know that elite Dems actually understand this, because the Obama campaign used it much more during 2008, and the Dems adopted it increasingly as election day approached 2010.  Yet they refused to govern this way, and even their rhetorical adoption of it was muted.  

Today the WH is pushing neoliberal trade / investment deals as a job creation strategy.  (Compare that to Froomkin's case for what the WH can do unilaterally.)

Say what you want about the right - they are loudly making demands of their government.  We have not.  Progressives have to often pointed to poll numbers not as you have, to show political possibilities and opportunities, but rather as evidence of what was likely to happen in the policy arena or elections.  But unmobilized public opinion has no impact.  

As far as opportunities go, there has to be disgruntled elements in the Democratic Party, just as there was when Dean won the DNC chair. There has to be people who see how hard it is to make a case for Democratic candidates at the state and local level or in a House race when the people at the top keep using conservative frames.  There has to be ambitious politicians running for both public and party positions who see they could jump the line if they build grassroots support rather than rely on existing networks.  There has to be politicians who fell short in the primary or general election after garnering grassroots and netroots support who would be willing to run for state or county chair, in essence reproducing the Dean model on a smaller scale.  

And if the people at the state and local level are bombarded with demands that they act on jobs, foreclosure fraud, etc., they might reassess the status quo, turn around, and start making demands of national level Dems, who are more likely to listen to them than to the grassroots.  Those state and local elements might also be more open to the kinds of changes to the party we need if they find themselves under significant pressure.  

But they aren't going to do it unless they are pushed.  Let's push.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


thanks for this post. (0.00 / 0)
And, yes, keep pushing the manufacturing angle.  I do believe that supporters of the president and the democratic party actually have more influence on the next two years than the tea party does.

Somehow this has to be demonstrated to the powers that be.  Civil Rights demonstrations were really only effective because Kennedy and Johnson were in the white house- and they could point to the demonstrators as public support to do the right thing- they never would have been successful with Nixon or Goldwater in the white house.

How do we get to the point where people can publicly voice their support for a manufacturing program and have the media and government be forced to respond?  It is quite obvious that elections themselves are not doing this.


Thanks for this, but the "move to the center" crowd (0.00 / 0)
will conveniently pretend like these polls and those showing similar results don't exist.  And how much coverage will these polls get in the media?

I think the stand-out fact here is that... (4.00 / 1)
80% of the public is in favour of a five-year plan. Glenn Beck should be worried about the vast tide of crypto-communism sweeping America...

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