Public opinion snapshot: No conservative mandate

One of the best polling and political analysts in the country, Ruy Teixeira, is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. I thought readers would be interested in his analysis of last week’s election.

Experts and pundits will float many interpretations of the 2010 midterms over the next few weeks. Progressives should consider each one carefully. But the most parsimonious explanation of how 2010 unfolded in terms of lessons for progressives going forward lies in a few fundamental factors: the poor state of the economy, the abnormally conservative composition of the midterm electorate, and the large number of vulnerable seats in conservative-leaning areas. These factors are discussed in detail in my new memo with John Halpin, “Election Results Fueled by Jobs Crisis and Voter Apathy Among Progressives.”

Conservatives have a different story, of course. For them, the 2010 election was all about voters embracing conservative ideas on the economy, health care, and tax cuts. But the 2010 exit polls tell a different story.

Only 23 percent of voters blamed President Barack Obama for today’s economic problems. Instead, they blamed either Wall Street (35 percent) or President George W. Bush (29 percent).

Nor was the election a repudiation of the new health care reform law. Even among a midterm electorate with an abnormally conservative composition, about as many said they wanted to see the law remain as is or be expanded (47 percent) as said they wanted it repealed (48 percent).

Voters weren’t embracing the conservative position on tax cuts, either. A 52 percent majority of voters wanted to either keep only the Bush tax cuts for those with less than $250,000 or let them all expire compared to 39 percent who wanted to keep all the tax cuts.

These data suggest that conservatives should quickly disabuse themselves of the notion that they have a mandate. They don’t.

— Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.

13 Responses to Public opinion snapshot: No conservative mandate

  1. Jim Groom says:

    For all the good it will do I forwarded the results of five polls to the leadership of the GOP last night. I pointed out that there is no mandate to change the health care bill or to extend the Bush cuts for the rich. I will drop dead if any of them actually read the e-mails or reply to me. What a fine mess we find ourselves post election. Meet the new boss…same as the old boss.

  2. Jim Groom says:

    I forgot to add this to the above. I came across this fantastic quote that certainly applies to the situation we find ourselves in today.
    ‘When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.’ Maya Angelou.

  3. Prokaryotes says:

    “Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.”

  4. Doug M. says:

    These data suggest that conservatives should quickly disabuse themselves of the notion that they have a mandate. They don’t.

    More importantly, democrats in office need to disabuse themselves of this notion.

  5. Al Bratton says:

    I think Republicans are claiming a mandate that started with their claim to Ted Kennedys old Senate seat and moving on to the mid-terms where they have scored unprecedented victories throughout the country in governor races, state house and senate races and in U.S. Houses races. The only place Democrats dodged the big bullet was in the Senate where they held on by a narrow margin that could have gone either way. If Democrats had won under the same circumstances I would have considered it a mandate. If you look at the total of the Republican victory it is shocking for us Progressives and Global Warming advocates. Truly shocking!

  6. Jeff Huggins says:

    Keep In Mind, Please!

    I apologize if the following is a point already mentioned in the post itself. I only perused the post because I got the sense of its important message.

    But here is a point that (it seems to me) is often overlooked but is entirely real and vital:

    If a citizenry — an electorate — has been deceived, misinformed, and manipulated, then even IF polls and votes indicate that there is a “voter mandate” on something, such a mandate loses a great deal, and perhaps all, of its meaning, importance, justification, and so-called “mandate”.

    For example, if I vote against a party that wants to address global warming, or against a specific policy to address global warming, because I don’t “believe in” the reality of global warming, because the media I watch are confusing me, misleading me, lying to me, and not even sharing with me what 97 percent of the relevant scientists say, then any “mandate” that can be attributed to me on that topic is nil, null, and void. I’m not joking. I’m being quite honest and entirely reasonable. In fact, this is a necessary conclusion, unless we all want to make terribly misinformed and dangerous mistakes.

    To be clear, this is not to say that leaders should not “care” about voters. Not at all. Instead, it’s to say that a leader should not blindly follow what a voter thinks if he or she (the leader) knows better and also has reason to believe that the voter has been misled, lied to, manipulated, and so forth. If a son asks a parent for $1000 because the son wants to buy some street drugs, because the pusher told him they’d make him feel great and help him grow to 7 feet tall, is the $1000 request a mandate from the son to the parent, or is it even something that would be good for the parent to fulfill?

    Because of this point, and because of the OBVIOUS mess and misinformation in the media during this recent election, talk of any “mandate” is really nonsense. Indeed, the best thing that we could do (on this whole question of “mandates”) is to point out this basic point of logic, reasoning, and good sense. Consider Fox: If you lie to viewers, and deceive and confuse them, and if you manipulate them or fuel those who do, and then if you turn around and call the votes that your viewers make a “mandate”, you’re committing basic nonsense. It’s total nonsense. It’s basic total nonsense. So who should we send back to Elementary School? Glenn? Bill? Sean? Rupert? All of them?!

    Their credibility is nil, but I think we should point these sorts of points out more directly. Trying to read through the stats in order to figure out whether there is a “mandate” in votes made by people who have been lied to, misled, and misinformed, and manipulated, is missing a key part of the argument that we should be making to, and against, the Fox folks.



  7. lizardo says:

    Following on Jeff’s points which I think can’t be stressed enough, I really recommend that people who read Joe’s blog here take the time to read because it’s pretty clear to me that Koch etc. and AFP etc. and thus the winning GOP candidates totally scared the voters that the US was on the verge of default and so had to cut spending.

    The only way to do that is to totally deregulate (oh and cut loose the poor, the sick, the elderly, the unemployed, the underpriviledged etc.) and even so they will force a financial crisis.

    But I am going to click the link to the poll to see what else is there and try to do some pushback and get others to do so, because I thought a mandate was something you only got with a landslide and in my area the margins were razor thin, and the folks who voted R were totally misled.

  8. Wes Rolley says:

    Because this all is in the right wing media echo chamber (stealing the concept from Maddow) the mandate must be true because all of the Tea Partiers tell each other that it is.

  9. spiritkas says:


    You mean both of them said that to each other? I’ll buy that, they probably did.

  10. Wonhyo says:

    Lack of a voter mandate didn’t stop Republicans from advancing any of their non-mandated causes, even when they were out of power in both houses of Congress. What has changed to make anyone think lack of a mandate will stop then now that they have the House? One can hope the Democrats will grow some balls and start fighting back, but do they have the will to do so?

    More likely than the Dems fighting back is the Republicans struggling with divisions within the party. Even so, will Dems even have the courage to exploit those situations?

  11. William P says:

    There is something that trumps all these nice statistics. That is the fact conservatives own the megaphone. Without a means to carry this information to the public, no one will ever know.

    Rush Limbaugh reaches up to 20 million listeners on over 600 radio stations. Fox “News” has perhaps as many viewers. Then there are the other mimic right wing media megaphones.

    The rancor in Washington is driven almost completely by this right wing media propaganda machine that uses hot button issues to get people to vote Republican. Then these Republican Congress people lower corporate and individual taxes and do away with profit eating regulation put in place to protect the public. That is the real target of right wing propaganda – certainly not the often silly hot button issues.

    Truth is not a factor on this right media. Viewers and listeners take what they hear on faith – much like a religious follower. These citizens have no other source of information on government and politics. Limbaugh, O’Riely, Hannity and Beck are their only “teachers” warning them of the demise of their nation unless they vote Republican.

    A clever, pervasive propaganda machine can take down a nation- even an educated one. Its happened in modern history.

  12. A face in the clouds says:

    It’s still a couple of months before the new members take their seats. This is the time to pressure the lame ducks into taking revolutionary action. As Wonhyo @10 said, if they don’t, then nothing much may get done (including rollbacks) the next two years because, for one thing, the Tea Partiers and the GOP are not going to get along. Just not sure we’ve heard the last of factions like the “911 Insiders” still aching to get at Dubya.

    All the while, healthcare reform and the money the Obama Administration has pumped into clean energy and related projects will become more apparent in pocketbooks and quality of life. Unfortunately it’s not happening fast enough because Big Coal, OPEC and the rest of Big Oil have for decades busied themselves sabotaging plans for any alternative infrastructure. The Obama Administration may only be buying time at this point. Is it time to ask the question?

    Is it too late, Mr. President?

  13. Doug M. says:

    Just realized that my comment at #4 might be unclear. Let me do it over:

    These data suggest that conservatives should quickly disabuse themselves of the notion that they have a mandate. They don’t.

    More importantly, Democrats in office need to disabuse themselves of the notion that the Republicans have a mandate.

    This election was decided mostly by how many progressives stayed home. Republicans won these elections with only 20-30% of the voting-eligible population, in most cases.