The elite fantasy of a silent libertarian majority appreciative of success and yearning for the right David Brooksian candidate is a total delusion, as swing voters are just as populist as Democrats. Plus, white folks don't like Obamacare and middle income folks do like Mitt Romney. Here's our guide to today's polls and which ones matter.
Findings: Swing voters are not libertarians. They tend to fall between Obama voters and Romney voters on most issues, but lean strongly one way or the other on some. Swing voters think more like Democrats when it comes to the wealthy and Wall Street (only 22 percent say "I admire rich people," only 54 percent say Wall Street makes an important contribution to the economy). They think more like Republicans when it comes to immigration (77 percent think there should be more restrictions on people who come to America). Sure, there are some bright spots for libertarians: swing voters don't think school boards should be able to fire gay teachers, don't want warrantless searches of possible terrorist sympathizers, and don't think the government should help more needy if it means growing the debt. But for the most part, these findings align with earlier research that shows despite a libertarian-leaning elite, the average voter is a little authoritarian.
Pollster: Pew Research Center
Methodology: Survey of 3,008 Americans from April 4 to April 15. Among them were 603 cell phone-only users.
Why it matters: First, this is more evidence that the Democrats defending Mitt Romney's career at Bain Capital are doing it for the donors, not the voters. Pew finds the idea that the "rich just get richer while the poor get poorer" is held by a large majority of people -- including 70 percent of those making $75,000 a year or more. Slightly more, 73 percent, of independents agree. This has remained relatively stable since 1987. Second, some elites have responded to increasing political polarization -- a trend Pew finds is continuing -- by proposing third way groups to promote socially liberal and economically conservative ideas. There was Americans Elect, which announced in May it wouldn't be able to nominate a third party candidate after all. There's icPurple, the Super PAC of Ted Waitt, founder of Gateway computers. Waitt told Mother Jones' Tim Murphy that he's socially liberal and fiscally conservative, and he's betting there's a silent plurality of likeminded people who think the same way and will find much to like in his "Declaration of Independents." But real independents won't. Writing for The New Republic, Jonathan Chait noted an extensive 2005 Pew survey analyzing nine types of voters. Only 10 percent were a group called "Enterprisers," who showed an actual principled commitment to smaller government. The rest might say they want less government, but 90 percent support supported adding the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
Caveat: Saying libertarian things gets you nice stories in the press.
Findings: Mitt Romney beats President Obama among people making between $36,000 a year and $89,000 a year. Obama wins those making less by 15 percentage points. But among whites making less than $36,000 a year, Romney is winning by 10 percentage points. Obama wins women in all income categories.
Methodology: Tracking poll of 9,015 registered voters from May 14 to June 3. The margin of error is +/- 1 percentage point.
Why it matters: Obama is pitching himself as a champion of the middle class, but a majority are not convinced. A separate survey finds that 58 percent of adults think the next generation will have fewer opportunities than their parents did.
Caveat: The pollster notes that poorer voters vote less -- 69 percent of lower-income voters say they'll "definitely" vote in November, while 83 percent of middle-income voters say they will.
Findings: 18 percent of whites think Obamacare will make them better off, while 38 percent think it will make them worse off. Among all Americans, 23 percent think the law will help them, 37 percent think it won't make a difference, and 31 percent think it will make them worse off.
Pollster: Kaiser Family Foundation
Methodology: Survey of 1,218 adults from May 8 to May 14, including 294 who only use cell phones.
Why it matters: National Journal's Ronald Brownstein notes two ironies in the poll: "One irony is that non-college whites are uninsured at much higher rates than those with degrees; for that reason, the law would personally benefit far more of them than the college-educated whites who are somewhat more open to it." The other is that Democrats thought the law would get white folks to stop thinking the party only wants to give benefits to the poor at their expense.
Caveat: More want the law to stay the same or be expanded than want it to be eliminated. Kaiser finds 27 percent want it to go further, 20 percent want it kept as it is, 18 percent want it replaced with a Republican alternative, and 21 percent want it repealed an not replaced.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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