Note: Neil Newhouse is proud to have served as the pollster for the Brown for Senate campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee in this race.
Massachusetts voters were sending a myriad of messages today with their election of Scott Brown. Here’s what we heard from voters we polled over the past two weeks…
- “We’re mad as hell and not going to take it any more.”
Yes, Howard Beale’s line from the movie “Network” captures some of the frustration felt by Massachusetts voters in this election. DC Democrats and Coakley’s campaign served pretty effectively as the object of these voters’ frustrations.
“My feeling is the Democrats have really screwed up since Barack Obama has been in office, and the sooner they lose their majority the better for our country. I think I’m just very disappointed in the direction this country is taking.” (Independent Man, Middlesex)
“To tell you the truth, I started out mainly for Coakley, but I’m fed up with the Democrats, I’m worried about this health bill they’re trying to get through, I’m just worried what it’s going to do to me.” (Independent Woman, Worcester)
- Washington isn’t listening to us.
Going hand in hand with the Beale sentiment was the frustration that Washington politicians are out-of-touch with regular people and are not listening to what they want. Scott’s voters know very well that they are sending a wake-up call to Washington politicians.
“Democrats’ liberal agenda is killing this country’s core beliefs and values and all the issues that our forefathers fought for. We don’t need to be baby sat. Despite what Washington’s opinion of the common person, we are completely capable of making own decisions.” (Independent Woman, Essex)
“I like what Scott Brown stands for and I feel that the Democrats cannot run the country anymore. That too many people that don’t have jobs are going hungry. They’re not taking care of business. They’re not doing their jobs. They’re caught up in this health care thing. I’m saying they’re not taking care of the people that are unemployed.” (Independent Man, Bristol)
- It’s about much more than just health care.
While many voters’ verbatim comments focused on their sentiments regarding health care reform, national security also played a significant role. While sometimes overlooked, the decision to try the Christmas Day underwear bomber in civilian court became a pretty contentious issue here and helped drive voters to Scott’s side.
“Specifically that Mrs Coakley is going to vote purely Democratic, and be another clone in Washington. She’s going to vote exactly how they tell her to vote. I believe more in the positions taken by Scott Brown on security and safety, even though I’m not a Republican, than the position taken by Coakley.” (Independent Man, Bristol)
“The last debate, especially the issue where she said there is no Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Probably one of the most absurd statements I have ever heard from a politician.” (Independent Man, Worcester)
“When you are talking about prosecuting these terrorists, they should be done by the military, that is a big one for me. Martha has no clue on this.” (Independent Man, Middlesex)
- Change can go both ways.
What comes around goes around. While voters across the country voted for massive change in the 2008 election by electing President Obama, Massachusetts voters were saying they’re not pleased with the changes they’ve seen to date. Massachusetts voters clearly want change in Washington, and rejected Martha Coakley’s “business as usual” Democratic party line candidacy. The closer she pulled herself to MA and national Democratic leaders, the more it convinced Independent voters that she was just another party hack.
“Scott Brown ran a campaign as an underdog and he ran without support and is getting his message out, it doesn’t feel like he’s tied to anybody. In this state it feels like there are too many connections, too many packs as they say. So, to get someone who isn’t part of that is great, I think he’s going to represent the people for that instead of the interests of government officials.” (Independent Woman, Norfolk)
“I like his position on business and the economy and our current road. Because it directly effects us, my family. I like the fact that he’s not an insider, that, somebody that’s not jaded by the political machine. Even though everyone loved Ted Kennedy let’s face it, it was good ol’ boy club.” (Independent Woman, Worcester)
“Brown would be the forty-first elected Republican, breaking the monopoly the Democrats have in Congress. I think they’re running away with their agenda and not listening to the American people. Just that there are so many cases where, for example the tea party, people are out there expressing their opinions. I see interviews with Harry Reid, not hearing the majority.” (Independent Man, Bristol)
- Don’t take my vote for granted.
Much has been made of the passive nature of Martha Coakley’s campaign and of the contrast to Scott’s aggressive retail efforts. That came through loud and clear in voters’ comments, as they felt that Coakley was trying to “back her way” into the Senate seat.
“I think that she’s not working as hard as she could have been in the election for one. It was just an overall feeling that she was so sure that she was going to make it that she wasn’t working that hard.” (Independent Woman, Barnstable)
“The fact that she is not going out campaigning like Scott Brown. And she is starting to come out now. But it is way to late. Where has she been? Scott Brown has been out there.” (Democratic Man, Middlesex)
- We don’t respond particularly well to desperate negative attacks.
Far more pervasive than voter comments regarding health care reform was voter disenchantment with Coakley’s over the top negative campaign. There was a clear perception that Coakley tried to make up for the unpopularity of her issue positions by attacking Scott Brown. And, the voter reaction was swift.
“The smear campaign, I can’t stand that. She isn’t God. I don’t like the fact that she’s doing a smear campaign. He has not said one negative thing about her, and she has to be scared to death. As far as I’m concerned she had my vote until she went for the smear campaign. She went for the smear campaign, and forget it. I won’t vote for her. That’s it, I’m thoroughly disgusted with her to think she can’t run a good clean campaign.” (Democratic Woman, Middlesex)
“I don’t like her negative campaigning, changed my whole opinion of her. I just don’t like the negative how she has attacked Scott Brown. She sat back when she was sure she was going to win the thing and now the polls are showing Scott is coming to the forefront and she is scared to death and now she is going to dirty politics.” (Independent Man, Plymouth)