Poll: Independents Powered the 2010 GOP Sweep

Self-described independent voters were a key component of the Republicans’ victory last week.

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Resurgent Republic, the polling operation created by former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie and GOP pollster Whit Ayres, released numbers Tuesday showing self-described independent voters were a key component of the Republicans’ resounding victory at the polls last week.

In a post-election survey, conducted jointly with Democracy Corps, the data showed clearly that “independent voters are now far closer to Republicans than Democrats on their outlook on the direction of the country, their attitudes about its political leadership, and their policy preferences,” the group said in a release.

The key points about the overall political climate the survey found:

  • Independents and Republicans feel strongly that the country is off on the wrong track, while Democrats are much more positive in their outlook. Democrats who voted in the 2010 election say the country is going in the right direction by 55 to 33 percent. But Republicans think the country is off on the wrong track by 92 to 4 percent, and Independents by 79 to 14 percent. This fundamental pessimism about the direction of the country under Democratic control of the presidency, the House, and the Senate drove the overall election result.
  • Independents and Republicans overwhelmingly say government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals. Sixty percent of independents say "government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals," versus only 34 percent who say "government should do more to solve problems and help meet the needs of people." That 60-34 percent margin among independents is up from 55-40 in Resurgent Republic's survey in April 2009. Republicans agree with independents that government is doing too much by 74 to 25 percent. But Democrats think government should do more by 76 to 21 percent.
  • While Democrats blame former President Bush and Republicans in Congress for the country being on the wrong track, Republicans and independents blame President Obama and Democrats in Congress. As with the direction of the country, Democrats stand on one side of the divide, while Republicans and independents stand on the other. Seventy-two percent of Democrats place the blame for the current state of the country on former President Bush (48 percent) or Republicans in Congress (24 percent), while 82 percent of Republicans blame President Obama (43 percent) or Democrats in Congress (39 percent). Independents are much closer to Republicans, with 53 percent blaming President Obama (28 percent) or Democrats in Congress (25 percent) versus only 21 percent blaming President Bush (16 percent) or Republicans in Congress (5 percent).
  • The same pattern holds for President Obama's job approval, where Democratic voters overwhelmingly approve while Republicans and independents overwhelmingly disapprove. The president's overall approve/disapprove rating is 44/52 percent among 2010 voters, with sharp partisan differences between the majority who disapprove and minority who approve. Democrats approve overwhelmingly by 84 to 12 percent, but Republicans disapprove by 91 to 6 percent, as do independents by 60 to 35 percent.
  • On a 2012 presidential ballot test pitting President Obama versus a generic Republican candidate, the generic Republican leads among 2010 voters by 50 to 40 percent, and by a 2-to-1 margin among independents. Among a broader electorate that includes people who voted in 2008 but not 2010, the generic Republican leads 48 to 42 percent. Democratic voters in 2010 overwhelmingly support the president for re-election by 82 to 8 percent, but Republican voters in 2010 support the generic Republican 92 to 3 percent, as do independents by 56 to 28 percent.
  • The Republicans, even as they continue to sift through the good news they received last Tuesday, need to remember that, in the last midterm election in 2006, as the poll analysis makes clear, “independents supported Democratic congressional candidates by 57 to 39 percent.” None of these numbers are determinate or permanent. How the GOP performs once it takes power in the U.S. House of Representatives and in governorships and state legislatures across the country will do a lot to determine whether they hold.

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