Rooting Against The Other Team

Recently, Glen Bolger wrote a blog post about how voters are not in love with any of the potential outcomes of the election. In the same NBC/WSJ poll (September 2014)*, voters were also asked which party control would they prefer after the election. Unsurprisingly, the country is split right down the middle: 45{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} prefer a Republican-controlled Congress and 43{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} prefer a Democrat-controlled Congress.

So, what are voters really looking for in this election? The answer… they want the other team to lose. Those who say they would prefer a Democrat-controlled Congress are 14 percentage points more likely to say it’s because they oppose the Republican Party and its candidates (54{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) than that they support Obama and other Democratic candidates (40{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}).

Feelings of opposition are even higher on the other side. Those saying they prefer a Republican-controlled Congress are 24 percentage points more likely to say it’s because they oppose Obama and Democratic candidates (59{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) than that it’s a vote in support of the Republican Party and candidates (35{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}).

Thus, voters on both sides appear to be less motivated to support their own team, and more motivated to register their protest and make sure the other guys lose.

But, it wasn’t always this way. In 2010, Republicans’ inclination was roughly the same – a majority said they were voting to oppose Obama and the Democrats. However, Democrat supporters were evenly split between support for Obama and their party versus opposition to Republicans. That year was a wave election with Republicans gaining 63 seats in the House and recapturing the majority.

chart 1

Today, there are numerous reasons this election is tipping again towards the Republicans: opposition to Obamacare, Republican enthusiasm for voting in November, Independents tilting towards the GOP, softening of core Democrat sub-groups for Obama, and the president’s low approval rating creating a drag on state races.

But, the fact that a majority of Democrat supporters are registering their opposition to Republican candidates coupled with their get-out-the-vote ground game may help compensate for the voting enthusiasm gap.You can even see that on facebook with how they buy facebook fans for themselfs.

Either way, it looks like this election is going to further reinforce the stark partisan divide in our country and be based more on negatives than positives.


*NBC/WSJ national survey conducted September 3-7, 2014. The survey was conducted among 1,000 registered voters.


(Public Opinion Strategies partners with Hart Research Associates to conduct the NBC/WSJ polls. Neither Peter D. Hart Research Associates nor NBC/WSJ are responsible for these conclusions.) For more info please visit :

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