Democrats take a hard left, but are they moving the country to the right?

My partner Glen’s OCD is well-placed when it comes to Independent voters; where they end up will decide the 2010 elections.  But, their swollen ranks have not just come by way of GOP defections.  Thanks to the total, complete, consolidated, and dominating power of President Obama and Congressional allies in Congress, they are now coming from Democrats as well.

The same mid-April Pew survey that measured a low ebb for Republicans (22% of the nation’s party identification, yikes!) also showed only 33% identifying themselves as Democrats – or the lowest number since January of ‘08 and down from the 39% measured in October just prior to election day.  While Republicans have yet to directly benefit from complete Democratic control, neither have the Democrats.

Our most recent national survey showed a majority of Americans willing to vote for a Republican as a hedge against complete Democratic control (A Compelling GOP Message).  Independent-minded Americans get that. And so far, Republicans aren’t making conservatives but the Democrats are.

Need proof of America’s tack back from the Left?  Despite a low-water mark of 22% GOP party ID, the same Mid-April Pew survey shows a plurality (44%) of Americans now believe free trade agreements like NAFTA have been a good thing.  Only 35% say they’ve been a bad thing. This is a net 22 point shift since April 2008 according to the Pew researchers.

Need more?  Americans are now much more split when it comes to gun control: 45% are against it and 49% are for it for a net 17 point shift in favor of protecting the rights of gun owners when compared to Pew’s April ‘08 survey.  Attitudes on abortion have taken a net eleven point shift toward the pro-life position since October ‘08.  American attitudes toward gay marriage have taken a similar rightward shift, albeit by a smaller single-digit margin over the past year.

Repeat: If issues matter, America has been growing more arguably more conservative but undeniably less liberal since election day.  A result that has also been replicated by Gallup.

But none of this blanching at the unchecked power of those in charge matters unless Independents place the blame for their economic woes firmly on the Democrat’s doorstep.  Fully half of the Pew respondents ranked the economy as their most important concern.  Please excuse me for quoting myself to add spice to my conversation, if there are doubts about economic impact on midterm elections, please see my previous post, More Misery Index.

While President Obama remains very well liked (Pew measured a 73%-24% fav-unfav), this is a net 15 point slide since January.  But, by a 70%-23% margin, Pew says Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going in this country today, unemployment is at 8.9% and gaining at a little less than half a point a month over the last four months.

Obamalove and American’s economic woes can’t coexist forever.  And, Republicans won’t resonate on their own with Independents until they make the case that Obama and Congressional Democrats are making matters worse.

Public Opinion Strategies