Survey shows independant voters taking a second look

Presidential campaigns are in some respects like a gruesome war. Large, well-financed armies of partisans slug it out in battles designed to rally their voters into action and to drive down the favorable impressions of the opposing candidate.

But the growing trend in modern elections centers on securing the votes of independent voters not affiliated with either party. This block of voters has increased significantly in the last few decades. They tend to be more conservative than most Democrats on fiscal issues and more liberal than most Republicans on social issues. Recent Democratic successes in both congressional and presidential elections have revolved around securing a majority of these independent voters to back Democrats.

A recent public opinion survey by the Gallup organization contains a clear message that independent voters may be becoming concerned about their decision to place one-party rule in the hands of the Democrats.

The poll, conducted July 17-19, had some interesting findings. Some 59 percent of the respondents said that the Obama administration’s proposals called for too much federal spending. Not surprisingly, 90 percent of Republicans felt that way, compared to only 28 percent of Democrats. But a solid 66 percent of independents expressed strong concern about the high level of federal spending.

In a similar vein, 52 percent of the respondents felt that the Obama agenda was moving toward too great an expansion of the federal government. Again, 83 percent of Republicans held that view while only 17 percent of Democrats concurred. But 60 percent of independent voters expressed a concern that the federal government is growing too large, too fast.
Other recent polling data show that the president’s popularity is falling, support for his handling of key issues is diminished, and the generic ballot question of whether the voters would prefer a Democrat or Republican in Congress is moving more in the direction of the Republicans. Next year is an election year in which every House member and roughly a third of the Senate face elections. That being the case, this recent Gallup poll should be a wake-up call for the president and the congressional members of his party.

Americans have recently seen the enactment of a “stimulus” package totaling almost $800 billion. But they have seen few positive results from that huge amount of government spending. Voters have also seen the House pass a thousand-page energy/climate change bill that will expand the government’s role in the economy and pit winners against losers in various states and industries. And now Congress is debating perhaps the largest and most expensive expansion of government ever in the form of health care legislation, including a public insurance option backed by the federal treasury.

Many Democrats in Congress are getting uncomfortable with the rush to enact huge new spending programs that will lead to an increase of direct government intervention in the economy. The Gallup poll indicates those Democrats have good reasons to feel that way. The president and the Democratic leaders in Congress are getting concerned that public opinion is shifting away from them on these crucial issues. They are trying to ram the health care legislation through before members of Congress go home for their August recess.

But moderate Democrats are not moving lockstep behind President Obama and the Democratic leadership at this juncture. One of the major reasons why they are getting cold feet is the fact that they know they must have the votes of those fiscally conservative independent voters if they are going to retain the seats that many of them won from Republicans in the last few elections.


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