DNC Polling Report from New Orleans
by Jenny Greenleaf, Sat Apr 22, 2006 at 07:03:12 AM EDT
One of the things that happens at every DNC meeting is the polling report. Our pollster is a man named Cornell Belcher, who has a firm named Brilliant Corners. He's been the pollster of record ever since Dean took over.
The current numbers were from studies done in February '06, just prior to the Dubai ports deal finally entering national consciousness (thank you, Chuck Schumer!), so I think we can assume things continue to trend our way.
Below the fold, distilled, is what Mr. Belcher had to say:
The coalition that elected Bush is in shambles. Voters no longer see Bush as honest or trustworthy. Corruption has moved into the top tier as a voting issue...thanks to the constant repetition of the phrase "culture of corruption" as well as the steady drumbeat of scandal emerging from the Republican ranks.
The two most dominant issues are Iraq and homeland security. Voters, however, do not interpret "homeland security" as "fighting the terrorists in Iraq." They are looking for a broader version of security that includes hometown security, port security, retirement security, healthcare security. These are all issues that Democrats fare better on.
So-called "faith voters" are starting to break away from the Republicans. As you'll remember from post-2004 analysis, the faith voters voted for Bush because he was "a strong, decisive leader " (27 percent) and "has good morals" (39 percent), not because of gay marriage (7 percent). Now, those voters are starting to understand that perhaps the Republican values are not those they share. Faith voters have moved from a 36-54 split toward Republicans to a 41-48 percent split. They're still trending Republican, but these voters are more concerned than the entire universe of voters about corruption in government. They do not believe that "taking care of the greedy and screwing the needy" is the right direction for the country. Although they're falling away from the Republicans, Democrats do have a lot of work to do to win these voters over.
The Democrats have experienced a decline in white voters since LBJ signed the civil rights bill. In recent times, 45-46% of the white vote has been considered great for Democrats. Recently, the polling has indicated that a majority of white voters would vote Democratic in the mythical generic congress polls.
Women are leading the way jumping off the Republican ship. Polling indicates that southern women are starting to lean towards the Democrats. As one woman in a focus group said, "Katrina showed that the Republicans have no morals." Women who believed that Bush was "good people" no longer feel that way.
Focus groups to gauge the mood of the country found that people are unsettled. they describe the state of things as "disappointing, chaotic, unsettling, disturbing." When questioned further, they point out things like "the stock market's up 200 points, but GM is laying off thousands" or "After 9/11, anything could happen at any given moment. Bush said he was going to do all this stuff to make things safe, and nothing's happened." People are insecure--not just about terrorism, but about their families and jobs, their future and their retirement. They're worried about internet predators coming after their children, and they're worried about gas prices and health care.
Belcher said that this feeling opens the opportunity to talk about a broader vision of what security means: to Democrats, security means a lot more than sending troops to Iraq.
You've all seen the polls indicating that 59-60% of Americans do not like the direction in which the country's heading. What's surprising, is that that number includes 58% of the people in the so-called red states. When people are asked with no prompting, they indicate that their top reasons for discomfort are the war in Iraq (31%), their dislike of Bush (15%), the economy (11%), dishonesty--this is new to show up (7%), and the budget deficit (4%). When the question is seeded with a list of issues and voters are asked to decide how bad a problem is on a 1-10 scale, Iraq has begun to distance itself from the rest of the issue field. Social security and health care have leapfrogged over terrorism and homeland security. Apparently, the more Bush pushes his Social Security and Medicare plans, the more anxious people get.
Southern women are especially anxious about the war in Iraq.
When asked why they don't like Republicans, the top reason people give is Iraq. Another 25% say they "just don't trust Bush anymore." When asked if they "feel safer with Republicans" or "think the country needs a change in direction," more people (49% to 45%) say that the country needs change.
Many voters feel that the Republicans have too much power. Belcher said that they had drafted their questions using the same language as Republican talking points. When asked if they agreed with "people shouldn't question the president" vs. "we need a broader vision of security," people chose the broader vision of security by 73 to 20%.
One interesting statistic that got the crowd laughing was that, at present, gay marriage is more popular than Dick Cheney.
That's all the good news. Questions from the audience were interesting.
What about Iraq? It's the elephant in the room. Belcher said that in spite of that being the number one issue with voters, Democratic leaders had not yet coalesced on what to do about it. (This obviously frustrates many DNC members, including me.) We can all agree that things need to change, and that resonates with voters.
Belcher also said that we need to address the disappointment of voters who are upset about voting rights. A large portion of the African-American believes the election was stolen, and it's been shown that there was voter suppression in Ohio. The challenge is to get people to vote again--when they feel their vote may not have counted the last time.
He was asked about impeachment. Belcher responded by saying that there is a fear that impeachment would do for us what it did for the Republicans--it would energize their base voters.