Monday, April 19, 2010

New Pew Polling Shows Record Anti-Incumbent Sentiment: How Does This Affect theTeague-Pearce race?

A study released yesterday by the Pew Research Center (click here for study) shows that only 43% of voters in March wanted to see their U.S. Representative re-elected. This is a record low for the sixteen years the Pew Research Center has been asking the question. The previous record was set in early October 1994, just before a massive shift of historic proportions that changed the composition of the House to Republican: at that point 49% of the voters wanted their Representative re-elected, but then by early November 2004 many voters (58%) had gone back to favoring the re-election of the incumbent. Nevertheless, enough incumbent Democratic legislators lost their jobs to make Newt Gingrich Speaker of the House. The only good news here for Democrats is that the elections are still six months away and popular sentiment may shift back by then.

For newsy video report about this click below

Overall, the respondents split evenly at 44-44 in preference for the Democratic or Republican candidate for Congress.

Last week I did a focus group in one of my classes, using the insights of a highly informed group of local Republicans and Democrats (evenly divided) to see what might happen in that race. One member of the focus group flat-out predicted Pearce would win, the others thought it would be close. Most of the focus group agreed it was too early to tell whether Obama would be a net drag or not on Teague, although there was agreement Teague's vote on cap-and-trade would hurt him. Teague will have an advantage when he argues as a Democrat in a Democratically-controlled Congress, he can get more done--unless polls start to show the House might go Republican, in which case this advantage disappears. Both scored high on likeability, but Pearce, surprisingly, appeared to have a stronger image of having reached out to Hispanic voters while he was in office. Bottom line: this focus group believes the vote will be decided not by any single factor, but by a combination of factors including Obama's popularity in November, Teague's voting record as it is portrayed in the campaign by both sides, and by the quality of the campaign.

One factor the Pew Research Center found important, but which was not present in this focus group, is anger. The members of my focus group are all highly successful and don't depend on the outcome of politics for their success. None of them fit into the "angry" category. The Pew study found fully 21 percent of their respondents (a record) angry at the federal government, particularly among Republicans (30%) and Independents (25%). Only the low (9%) amount of anger among Democrats keeps the anger quotient in check. But anger is certainly a motivator to go out and vote and if this remains this high and shows up in New Mexico, it could certainly make the difference in a close race.

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