By Aaron Blake - 11/15/06 12:00 AM EST
Democrats’ overwhelming midterm election victory last week has given a majority of people involved in politics a sense of hope that the new Congress will accomplish more than its predecessor has, according to a study conducted by Wilson Research Strategies for The Hill.
Fifty-one percent overall and 61 percent of independents believe the 110th Congress will be more productive than the 109th, which has been labeled a “do-nothing” Congress by some experts despite its majorities in both houses and control of the presidency.
The 831 respondents, comprised of individuals who work within the political arena, also thought by a 51-34 margin that the new Congress would “pass substantive legislation.” But less than 50 percent thought presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would run a less partisan House than Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), and nearly equal numbers of people expect more gridlock as expect more compromise.
Nearly half expect President Bush to exercise between five and 14 vetoes over the next two years, while 23 percent think the number will be higher.
About a quarter of respondents thought the new Congress would be less productive, while 21 percent saw it producing “about the same” results. Republicans expressed far less confidence in the Democratic leadership, with only nine percent expecting more and 62 percent expecting less.
Three-fourths of Republicans foresaw more partisanship under Pelosi, while only eight percent expected less.
“One thing that is really clear amongst our respondents is an intense polarization on every single issue,” said Chris Wilson, CEO of Wilson Research Strategies. “You still see the sort of polarization and intense partisanship between the two parties that existed going into the election; you just have a different group in power now.”
Republicans, Democrats and independents were all similarly surprised by how big the shift in power was, with at least two-thirds of each group saying the Democrats gained more seats than the respondents thought they would.
They felt voter fatigue over war and fiscal irresponsibility had stronger impacts than corruption and the Mark Foley scandal, though at least 89 percent agreed that all four had some impact. Forty-three percent of Republicans said a disengaged Republican base had a strong impact on the results on the election, and another 43 percent said it had some impact.
Republican respondents blamed congressional Republicans more than President Bush for the losses, while Democrats and independents both said Bush and the White House should bear more blame. Republicans blamed lawmakers more, by a 60-30 margin, while Democrats blamed Bush more, by a 73-19 margin.
There was also stark partisan contrast when people were asked who they think will be each party’s 2008 presidential nominee.
Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) were, as in most other surveys, the clear frontrunners. But the partisan breakdown reveals Clinton drawing disproportionate votes from Republicans and independents and McCain receiving disproportionate votes from Democrats.
Clinton was the 2008 Democratic nominee in the minds of 71 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of independents, but only 30 percent of Democrats (she was still the top vote-getter among members of her own party). Similarly, 63 percent of Democrats said McCain would win the Republican nomination, while less than 40 percent of Republicans thought so.
At 48 percent overall, Clinton finished ahead of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), who both received about 15 percent. McCain’s 51 percent bested Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 18 percent and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani at 13 percent.