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Unspinning Massachusetts

There have been some very useful FDL discussions of the polling data coming out of Massachusetts following the Democratic defeat. Here, I’d like to take a look at one question asked in the Research 2000 poll, commissioned by several progressive organizations and conducted on the evening of the election, January 19, after polls closed.

The question (below, with responses hopefully in table form) was the only one that offered a “head to head” (Brown vs. Coakley) comparison, but focused on the all-important national issue of The Economy, in which neither candidate had been a policy-maker. I would suggest much of the voter evaluation regarding this question was not about either candidate, but instead had to do with policy decisions coming from Washington DC.

The Dreaded Economy will likely be the single most important battleground in the midterm election this year and in the 2012 presidential election. Importantly, please note that this poll tracked only those who had voted FOR OBAMA in the most recent presidential election. Presumably this is because the sponsoring organizations were concerned with the current perspective of Obama’s 2008 majority.

What really caught my eye here was that a significant number of Obama supporters–voters of all stripes–appear to feel abandoned–even in a state as blue as the People’s Republic of Massachusetts:

QUESTION: Which candidate in Tuesday’s special election for Senate did a better job of representing you and your family on economic issues: Republican Scott Brown or Democrat Martha Coakley?

2008 Obama Voters Who VOTED BROWN      
ALL 13% 25% 62%
MEN 10% 29% 61%
WOMEN 16% 21% 63%
DEMOCRATS 16% 17% 67%
REPUBLICANS 6% 42% 52%
INDEPENDENTS 13% 24% 63%
2008 Obama Voters Who STAYED HOME      
ALL 26% 9% 65%
MEN 23% 11% 66%
WOMEN 29% 7% 64%
DEMOCRATS 28% 7% 65%
REPUBLICANS 4% 34% 62%
INDEPENDENTS 15% 24% 61%

Look at the huge numbers under the “NEITHER” column above. Regardless of gender or party affiliation and regardless of whether voters went for Brown or stayed home and didn’t vote at all, a strong majority of Obama supporters felt that neither Brown nor Coakley would represent voters’ economic interests. Significantly, this held true even for Republicans who voted for Brown–even GOP voters felt that their own party’s candidate didn’t represent their economic interests.

I would argue that the response to this question doesn’t show a strong shift from Democratic to GOP parties–at least along economic lines. What is represented by the data is increasing voter distrust of both parties, and this can only be laid partially, if at all, at Brown’s or Coakley’s feet. Neither Brown nor Coakley have been involved in any of the decisions that have angered voters all across the political spectrum. In my view, a much larger share of the causality rests with those who have been making economic policy decisions in Washington for the past year.

It’s important to underline the limitations of these results, in that they refer only to the outlook of those who voted for Obama in the last election, rather than the Massachusetts electorate as a whole. Still, the responses to this question provide systematic data suggesting a general withering of support for Obama on economic policy grounds, but more specifically a condemnation of government economic policy generally. The voters canvassed in this poll appear to be saying “A pox on both your houses”—a general abandonment of hope that either party is actually interested in representing the economic needs of a majority of “average” Americans.

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