Thursday, November 04, 2010

The "Hold Your Nose" Factor (Along With Economies and ConservaDems' Responsibility)

I've been going over some exit poll results on CBS's website. A lot to digest, but something jumped out at me.

Is your opinion of the Democratic Party:

Favorable (43%)

House Vote Democrat: 91%, House Vote Republican 8%

Unfavorable (53%)

House Vote Democrat: 10% House Vote Republican 88%
So only 10% of people "held their nose and voted Democratic". That's really, really small. Pretty clear that the only way you were going to vote Democratic is if you liked the Dems.

Now the Republicans:

Is your opinion of the Republican Party:

Favorable (42%)
House Vote Democrat: 11%, House Vote Republican: 88%
Unfavorable (52%)
House Vote Democrat: 75%, House Vote Republican: 23%
See the difference? Almost a quarter of people with unfavorable views of the Republican party voted for it anyway! That suggests, to me, that there were a lot of people who pulled the "R" despite themselves. They didn't like the Republicans, and may not have even shared their agenda; but they're ticked off enough about the economy that they decided to punish the Democrats regardless.

Another bit that grabbed me was a possible indicator that this is a different electorate than in 2008 rather than just a change in views in the same electorate: the McCain/Obama numbers. McCain and Obama numbers were evenly split at 45% each. Now this may be people misremembering, but it was only two years ago and a big deal besides. I believe this better shows that these are not all the same people who voted in the last election. More McCain voters showed up because they were energized; Obama voters declined precipitously.

Oh, and one more thing. Look at this. It shows the importance of the economy as a factor.

Do you think the condition of the nation's economy is:

Good (9%) House Dem:79%, House Rep: 20%
Not so good (52%) House Dem: 52%, House Rep: 45%
Poor (37%) House Dem: 26%, House Rep: 71%
The Dems FAR outperformed their average among people who thought the economy was doing well. The farther down, the poorer the evaluation. It carried over to financial situation, too: if you are BETTER off or "about the same", you were more likely to vote Democratic; if you were WORSE off, you were more likely to vote Republican. Which fits the "punishing the Dems for the poor economy" thesis quite well, rather than some kind of wholesale embrace of Republican ideology.

(After all, that very same group punished the Republicans two years ago.)

This isn't a repudiation of liberalism. It was "the economy, stupid". If Obama had delivered a better economy, the group of people who are better off and thought the economy was recovering would have been larger, and delivered more votes for his people on Tuesday.

So, now, the battle appears to be over who gets blamed for the terrible economy in 2012. So far, I'm not optimistic it's going to be the Republicans.

Edit: There's a bit in TAP by Jamelle Bouie that reinforces this point.

Almost all districts voted more Republican in this election than in 2008, but much of that shift came from states hit hard by the recession. Republicans made big gains in Michigan (13 percent unemployment), Florida (11.9 percent unemployment), and Ohio (10 percent unemployment). The national unemployment average, by contrast, is 9.6 percent.
Well put. There's another point made there, too: that the Senate might have seriously hurt the house, even on unpopular bills.

So, are liberals responsible for the 15 other seats Republicans won on Tuesday? Yes and no. Congressional liberals were clearly the driving force behind adopting a climate bill in the House of Representatives, with strong support from progressive activists. Passing that bill required hard votes from vulnerable members in rural, conservative districts. If the Senate had passed a climate bill, those members might have been able to make lemonade from lemons. But the Senate failed to act on climate legislation, and the bill became dead weight for a number of rural Democrats. By all accounts, Rick Boucher, a 14-term representative in Virginia's 9th District, wouldn't have faced a serious competitor -- and would have cruised to re-election -- had he voted against cap-and-trade. Likewise, Tom Perriello, a freshman Democrat in Virginia's 5th District, might have edged out his Republican opponent (or come closer to doing so) had he voted against health-care reform or any other piece of major labor.

That said, you can only go so far with this; the economy was the issue for most voters, and had centrist Democrats been willing to support a more liberal stimulus with larger payouts and fewer tax cuts, they might have saved a few of those vulnerable seats. Which is to say that moderate and conservative Democrats -- by reflexively opposing President Barack Obama on so many items -- bear as much responsibility for Tuesday as liberals do.
The parts I bolded are absolutely key, and likely to get overlooked. Voting for legislation that ultimately founders in the other chamber is likely to cripple you. This is ESPECIALLY true for legislation that is going to be easy to caricature, like cap-and-trade. The Senate, by blocking House bill after House bill, just made sure that House members had nothing to show for tough votes. And on the economy, it was ESPECIALLY disastrous, since as we saw people who feel "worse off" voted primarily Republican, and often did it even if they didn't LIKE Republicans.

Dispirited youth and minorities stayed home. Energized, "fuck-you" oldsters went to vote. People who were worse off went (R), and the Senate's "moderates" screwed everybody else. Just another election in America, during the long, slow, brutal slide to irrelevance.

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