Poll: Independents as Upset as Republicans

By Beacon Staff

WASHINGTON – More bad news for Democrats clinging to control of Congress: Independent voters are nearly as grumpy as Republicans about politics this year.

In an Associated Press-GfK Poll this month, 58 percent of independents and 60 percent of Republicans said politics is making them angry, compared with 31 percent of Democrats who said so. About 7 in 10 independents and Republicans were disgusted, compared with 4 in 10 Democrats, and independents and Republicans were likelier than Democrats to be disappointed, depressed and frustrated.

As for positive emotions, independents and Republicans were half as likely as Democrats to be inspired and less prone to be hopeful, excited and proud.

The figures are the latest cautionary note for Democrats, who face a Nov. 2 Election Day in which the sluggish economy and President Barack Obama’s tepid popularity give Republicans a strong chance to capture control of the House and perhaps the Senate. They also help explain why independents, who can be pivotal in many congressional races, prefer their GOP candidate over the Democrat by 52 percent to 36 percent — which grows to 62 percent to 29 percent among independents considered likeliest to vote.

“There’s a yellow light flashing” for Democrats in the numbers, said Ann Crigler, a political science professor at the University of Southern California who has studied the relationship between voter behavior and emotions.

Combined with other findings, independents’ sullenness underscores how difficult it will be for Democratic candidates to win them over this election.

Only about a third of independents say the country is moving in the right direction and more than half say Obama is doing a poor job as president. Three-quarters disapprove of Congress, only about a third want Democrats to control Capitol Hill next year and more than 8 in 10 call the economy poor — similar to Republicans and exceeding the two-thirds of Democrats who say so.

“I’m not happy with Republicans,” said Ed Perry, 66, an independent from Lowell, Ohio, who thinks government is too large and expressed anger in the poll. “But I’m really unhappy with Democrats.”

Independents’ feelings about politics have sunk along with everyone else’s since Obama’s November 2008 election. They’re more than twice as likely to be disappointed and five times likelier to be angry than they were in an AP-GfK Poll taken days after Obama’s victory. They’re also half as likely to say they are proud and excited.

Among independents who said in this month’s poll that they supported Obama in 2008, only a quarter say their vote this fall will be a show of support for him. More than 8 in 10 express frustration and disappointment, and just under half trust Democrats most to handle the economy.

“All these people we elected are supposed to be looking out for the little guy. And it’s not that way anymore,” said independent Joan Manfre, 48, of South Plainfield, N.J., an unemployed office worker who voted for Obama but said in the poll that she is disappointed.

Independents’ dismal views of the country’s direction and their negative ratings of the president and Congress mirror the findings of an AP-Ipsos Poll in September 2006, conducted just before midterm elections when President George W. Bush was in office and the GOP controlled Congress. That suggests the gloomy mood that swept Republicans from congressional control that year could work against Democrats this fall.

The poll was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from Sept. 8-13, using landline and cell phone interviews with 1,000 randomly chosen adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points for adults and 6.4 percentage points for independents.


AP Polling Director Trevor Tompson and AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

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