Newsweek reality check: ‘angry’ voters no more likely to vote

The “angry voter” meme is red hot this year, and the number crunchers have determined that the angry are a majority, and they will sweep Republicans into power in November. Unless of course, they’re less than a quarter of the population and no more likely to vote than people whose eyes aren’t constantly bulging…

Newsweek talks the Narrative down off that ledge it’s been teetering on, slowly …

Anger is dominating the current political conversation—especially if you’re an older, whiter, economically anxious voter who dislikes President Barack Obama and tends to prefer Republicans to Democrats. But according to the new NEWSWEEK Poll, there’s little reason to believe that anger alone will be the determining factor in November’s midterm elections.

Self-described “angry” voters fit a rather predictable political and demographic profile. The survey found that only 14 percent are Democrats. The rest are either Republicans (52 percent) or independents (29 percent), with 42 percent of the angry voters declaring themselves Tea Party supporters. For the midterms, angry voters favor Republican candidates over their Democratic rivals, 73 percent to 19 percent. Three quarters want the GOP to win control of Congress. More than seven in 10 specifically describe themselves as angry with Obama and congressional Democrats, and a full 60 percent see their vote in November as a vote against the president. Compared with voters in general, angry voters are 21 percent more likely to say they’re worried about their economic future. They are 10 percent whiter than voters in general and 7 percent less likely to be under 30.

In other words, the “angry voter” is demographically equivalent to the average viewer of Fox News or the average talk radio listener, whose median ages are 65 and 67 respectively…

Anyway, do go on, Newsweek…

But the NEWSWEEK Poll’s most revealing finding is that despite months of media coverage insisting that voters are “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore,” anger is unlikely to decide this year’s elections. For starters, self-described angry voters constitute only 23 percent of the electorate, and there’s no reason to believe that they’re more likely to cast ballots in November than their calmer peers. Why? Because the percentage of angry voters who say they will definitely vote in the midterms is statistically indistinguishable from the overall percentage of voters who say the same thing (84 percent vs. 81 percent). In fact, majorities of voters say they would not be more likely to vote for candidates who express anger at Washington incumbents (60 percent), Wall Street bankers (52 percent), the illegal-immigration problem (53 percent), the Gulf of Mexico oil spill (65 percent), or health-care reform (55 percent). Fifty-three percent of voters see Obama’s unemotional approach to politics—his “coolness”—as a positive, versus only 39 percent who don’t.
Anger isn’t the only factor that’s been overhyped in the run-up to Election Day. The president, for example, appears to be a neutral force rather than a negative one. His approval rating stands at 48 percent, roughly where it has remained since January of this year, and far better than where George W. Bush stood before the 2006 midterms (33 percent) or where Bill Clinton stood in 1994 (36 percent). Meanwhile, the percentage of voters who say they will be voting “for Obama” in November’s congressional elections (32 percent) is statistically identical to the percentage who say they will be voting “against” him (30 percent). Voters dissatisfied with the country’s current course are more likely to place “a lot” of blame on Bush (39 percent) than on his successor (32 percent).
Another factor that has garnered a lot of potentially unwarranted attention is “the issues.” Simply put, in the NEWSWEEK Poll, voters said they trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle pretty much every problem currently facing the country: Afghanistan (by 6 points), health care (by 12), immigration (by 2, though that figure is within the margin of error), Social Security (by 14), unemployment (by 12), financial reform (by 14), energy (by 19), and education (by 19). Voters even prefer Democrats to Republicans on federal spending (by 4 points), taxes (by 5), and the economy (by 10)—the GOP’s core concerns. The only area where Republicans outpoll Democrats is the issue of terrorism, where they lead by a 6-point margin.

Read the rest of the findings here. (Shorthand: “it’s the economy, stupid…”) The poll doesn’t have great news for Democrats when it comes to predicting what happens a month from now, but at least it’s more realistic than Dan Balz’s “America wants the GOP…”

Meanwhile, Public Policy Polling has an interesting insight into the election that should give tsunami-watchers pause. In short: the Republican electorate is super energized (and very unified), but it’s about as energized as it’s gonna get. It’s the Democrats who have room to grow…

Democrats could end up doing better in November than the polls suggest right now for two big reasons- 1) most races right now have a lot more Democratic undecideds than Republicans and 2) the enthusiasm gap isn’t going to do anything but shrink.

First a look at the undecideds. We have polled 14 Senate or Gubernatorial races since Labor Day. In 12 of them there are more undecided Democrats than Republicans and it’s usually by a wide margin- the average across those 14 contests is 17% more undecided Democrats than Republicans.

GOP voters are incredibly unified this year and most Republican candidates don’t have much room to grow with their base over the final month of the campaign. There’s no guarantee that the undecided Democrats will end up coming home but more than likely they will. Last year’s New Jersey Governor’s race is a good example of this.

Comparing our poll in mid-September to our final poll of the race Jon Corzine gained 8 points with Democrats while Chris Christie saw just a 3 point increase with Republicans. Obviously it wasn’t enough in the end for Corzine to win but he gained a lot of ground and if the same thing happens for Dems who are down by 5 points right now rather than double digits it could put them over the top.

And yes, there are charts. Do check them out.

Bottom line: Democrats need to calm down, run good campaigns, and get out their voters. The world isnt’ ending on November 2nd, no matter how many times Charlie Cook says it is.

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