We Are Not Alone: Independents Are Starting To Think Like Us

Republicans can find some solace in the recent NPR national survey results that we are not alone. As Glen Bolger noted in his posting Independent’s Day, the GOP might now have a reason to believe.

What’s striking about this recent survey data is just how much closer Independents are to Republican voters on many key political barometers than they are to Democrats. Take the mood of the electorate, for example. While a solid majority of Democratic voters (54{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) believe the country is heading in the right direction, just 9{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Republicans and 18{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Independents are confident about the track we’re on.

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Additionally, both Republicans and Independents hold distinctively negative views about the job Congress is doing. Only 16{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Republican and 20{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Independent voters approve of Congress’ performance to date, while 59{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Democratic voters give Congress a thumbs up.

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Even when it comes to President Obama, Independents are fairly divided on the job he’s doing; fully 49{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} approve of Obama’s performance on the job, while a nearly equal 44{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove. While not as negative as their Republican counterparts (24{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} approve – 67{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove), Independents are still light-years away from where Democrats are on the President (93{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} approve – 4{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove).

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Since taking office two months ago, Obama’s approval numbers with Independents have slid 13 points, while his disapproval ratings have climbed 32 points with these voters (Gallup Poll, January 21-24: 62{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} approve – 12{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove). During that same time span, Republican approval of the President has dropped 17 points (from 41{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} to 24{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}), while Democratic approval has actually increased five points (from 88{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} to 93{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}).

And, the good news for Republicans (relatively speaking) doesn’t stop there. This same NPR National Survey shows the generic ballot tied overall (42{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} each), with Republicans enjoying a 14-point edge with Independent voters (38{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Republican – 24{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Democrat). This comes on the heels of a Rasmussen poll that showed Democrats with slight overall generic edge (38{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Republican – 41{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Democrat), but with Independents favoring the Republican candidate by 12 points (36{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} – 24{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}).

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After two consecutive elections where Independents sided with Democrats by lopsided margins (voting +18 Democrat in 2006 and +8 in 2008 nationally), a tied generic ballot is reason enough for Republicans to be over the moon.

Before I get accused of propagating the equivalent of political crop circles, I do want to make one thing clear: this data certainly does not suggest all the Republicans’ problems have been solved. They haven’t. The issue environment continues to heavily favor Democrats and Republicans have yet to invent their own version of a standard issue neuralyzer (that handy memory eraser Tommy Lee Jones flashes in Men in Black). But, after two cycles of having no close encounters of the Independent kind, there is reason to believe the GOP could be a credible contender in 2010 (rather than a bunch of killer clowns from outer space).

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