Polling Independents

It is amazing how quickly the conventional wisdom has changed. In recent elections the conventional wisdom, fueled by Karl Rove’s political theories, was that there were very few voters in the middle and that the way to win was for each party to mobilize their base. This led to the Republican Party moving to the extreme right. The result was predictable to those of us who believed Rove was wrong in the long term. Large numbers of people left the Republican Party as they moved to the extreme right and now identify themselves as independents or Democrats.

The Washington Post shows the new conventional wisdom in writing that, “McCain needs support from independents because in recent elections, partisans have overwhelmingly supported their own party’s candidates, and self-identified Democrats now outnumber Republicans.” Suddenly elections are no longer decided by mobilizing the extremes but once again are decided by which direction the independents go.

This story comes in a report of their recent poll which shows that Obama and McCain are even among independents. This might be accurate in terms of people who at this moment in time consider themselves independents, but it can be misleading if taking a long term view of politics. I’m less interested in those who say they are independents right now as opposed to a larger group of voters who shift party allegiance over the years. Many of the people I would consider independents currently label themselves as Democrats. Such voters considered themselves Republicans or independents in past elections but are no longer included in polls of independents. If these independent voters could be accurately polled, I’m confident that Obama would have a large lead among independents. McCain also gets a boost in a poll of self-identified independents as many people who now call themselves independents are people who were Republicans before George Bush.

While we have only had one election since 1980 without a Bush on the ticket, this election remains heavily influenced by George Bush. It is largely due to the extremism and failed policies of George Bush that many former independents now consider themselves Democrats and that many former Republicans are now independents or Democrats. Bush’s approval has reached a new low at 29% in this poll, with views on Bush influencing views on McCain. While 80% of those who approve of George Bush are backing McCain only 26% of those who disapprove of Bush are supporting him.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    Jerry says:

    Zogby/Reuters just came out with a poll showing Obama with a huge lead in independents. Quin’ is showing Obama leading in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and even Florida. He leads in the white vote in Penn and doesn’t do badly in the other 2 states. Big news and possibly the start of a blow-out!
    I remember when Gore won the nomination. His VP pick was awful and I knew he was in trouble. Barack: choose carefully and choose someone close to your beliefs and positions! And do NOT choose Hillary!

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    If Obama can really win all three of those states it is very difficult to come up with any combination of states which give McCain a victory. Even two out of three would probably be enough for Obama to win.

    Fortunately seeing Obama do well in these three states eliminates any argument for putting Clinton on the ticket.

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