POLL: Independents prefer divided government and are leaning Republican

Independent voters are trending toward Republican candidates in toss-up districts, with a majority of them saying they want divided government rather than one-party control.

The Hill/ANGA 2010 Midterm Election Poll found that 51 percent of self-described independents prefer the president and Congress to come from different parties.

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In the survey, of likely voters in 12 toss-up House districts held by first-term Democrats who arrived in Washington with President Obama, 43 percent of independents said they would vote for the Republican in their district, compared to 34 percent who said they would vote for the Democrat.

“In these districts they’re trending Republican,” said pollster Mark Penn of Penn Schoen Berland, which conducted the poll. “You have to be a little bit careful in that this is a particularly volatile set of districts, but there’s no question that the independents are largely coming to the side of the Republican Party and are extremely dissatisfied with Congress.”

Throughout this cycle, congressional Republicans have stressed the need for “a check and balance” on the Obama administration. The poll indicates that message is working.

Independents prefer a divided government by 53 percent to 30; undecided voters broke 47-22 in the same direction.

Penn said, “This factor could be critical in determining the final outcome of the elections.”

In the 2008 election, 53 percent of independent voters in these districts chose Obama for president.

The Hill/ANGA poll found that a majority of these voters — 56 percent — now disapprove of the job Obama is doing. Eighty-three percent disapprove of Congress.

Independent voters will factor Obama into their 2010 decision, the poll found, with 64 percent saying the president is an important consideration in their midterm vote.

Sixty-seven percent of independents said they were “very passionate” about voting — an enthusiasm level that is lower than voters who identify with either of the two parties. Of Republican voters, 83 percent are “very passionate” about voting, while only 68 percent of Democrats described themselves that way, the poll found.

Even though they’re not as enthusiastic, independent voters will play a major role in deciding which House members return to Washington.

The poll showed a significant portion, 19 percent of them, remain undecided. Meanwhile, only 8 percent of Democrats said they are undecided, compared to 11 percent of Republicans.

Penn said, “[Independents] represent the key swing voters outside of those already affiliated with one party or another. Most of the campaigns, in the closing days, are going to be geared toward one of two things — trying to get higher turnout among each party’s strongest advocates or trying to persuade independents who, not untypical, are the softest voters in the election, more likely to be volatile both in turnout and who they vote for.”

Both parties are expected to invest millions of dollars in these districts by Election Day in an effort to win over these independents and other undecided voters.

“Expect a lot of spending in those last two weeks,” said Penn, adding that undecided voters would not pick a candidate until a few weeks before Nov. 2.

Of the 12 congressional districts examined by the poll, independents could have the biggest impact in those held by Reps. Mark Schauer (D-Mich.); Glenn Nye (D-Va.); Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio); and Frank Kratovil (D-Md.).

Schauer is tied 41-41 with his Republican opponent, former Rep. Tim Walberg. But 19 percent of independent voters are undecided in that district, compared to 8 percent of Republicans and 6 percent of Democrats.

Nye trails his Republican opponent, Scott Rigell, by six points, 36 percent to 42. But 26 percent of independents in Va.-2 remain undecided, while 14 percent of Democrats and 12 percent of Republicans say the same.

Kilroy is nine points (38-47) behind Republican Steve Stivers, who was also her 2008 opponent. But 28 percent of independents in Ohio-15 remain undecided. The bad news for Kilroy: Independents in the district are trending toward Stivers. Of those who have made up their mind, 46 percent are voting for him, versus 25 percent supporting her.

In Md.-1, Kratovil is down three points (40-43) in a district Obama lost by 18.5 percentage points in 2008. But 25 percent of independent voters are undecided, and Republican Andy Harris, the 2008 nominee, has only a three-point edge among those independents who have made up their mind.

“Very few of these races are really put away one way or another,” Penn said.

“The question is how the remaining undecideds here, who really are going to decide these races that are under 50 [percent], is which argument is going to be most compelling. They are more independent, so they’re not going to be as subject to party appeals.”

The Hill/ANGA 2010 Midterm
Election Poll Stories

About the poll

GOP leads widely, Dems in danger but races tight

Feelings about Obama make midterms a national election

Independents prefer divided government, lean Republican

Distaste for healthcare law crosses party lines

Editorial: Knowing who will win

District by
district results

Arizona
Colorado
Illinois
Maryland
Michigan
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Ohio
Pennsylvania
Virginia