A Headline That Tells Half The Story

From the Huffington Post:  Obama's New Electorate: Poll Shows GOP Deteriorating

True.... But....actually, as Tom Edsall's write-up makes clear, the Pew survey also finds evidence of a center-leaning ideological drift that suggests that President Obama may soon be reaching the limits of what the public might tolerate.  Still, the Democrats probably wouldn't want to trade places!

While Democrats have made substantial gains in the partisan identification of voters, the party does not have a clear mandate to move to the left across the board, the survey found. Although the Pew findings represent good news for Democrats, there are some costs to their gains. Many of the new Democratic voters are not as liberal as traditional party loyalists, so that support for such initiatives as expanded health care, progressive taxation, and a stronger safety net may face opposition from within party ranks.

On the basic issues of the liberal-conservative divide, the Pew study found a level of polarization "never before seen" between Democrats and Republicans over the fundamental role of government on such questions as whether the government "should help more needy people, even if it means debt," "guarantee everybody enough to eat and a place to sleep," and should "care for those who can't care for selves." On each of these issues, Pew found, there is more than a 30 percentage point difference in the views of Democrats and Republicans.

Independent voters, many of whom have become Democratic "leaners" providing crucial margins on election day, fall right between the two partisan camps. More worrisome for the Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders is the Pew finding that "the overall balance of public opinion on the government's responsibility to provide for the needy has shifted to the right" despite the onset of a severe recession.

The survey found that "the share of Americans overall who favor helping more needy people even if it means greater debt has fallen from 54 percent in 2007 to 48 percent today, and there is a comparable drop in the share who say the government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep (from 69 percent in 2007 to 62 percent today). This rightward shift is starkest among independents. Today, just 43 percent of independents say the government should help more needy people even if it means going deeper into debt, down 14 points since 2007. And over this period the number of independents who favor guaranteeing food and shelter for all has fallen 13 points from 71 to 58 percent."

These numbers amount to a warning for the Obama administration, which so far has been able to maintain strikingly high favorability ratings while pursuing an agenda calling for a major expansion of the safety net, especially in health care.

Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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