I've got my hands on a survery conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research on behalf of USAction and USAction Education Fund, of swing voters in swing districts in swing states. Some interesting information surfaces within. The survey focuses on independent voters: that is, voters who are truly registered as independent, or Democrats or Republicans who have demonstrated a willingness to vote for the other party. Some highlights of the survey:
» Swing voters are angry - 73 percent of these voters feel the country is off the right track, and 66% disapprove of the way George Bush is handling the Presidency (49% strongly disapprove). By a 2:1 margin, independents feel the economy stinks (in Ohio, it's nearly 4:1).
» Democrats come out far ahead in independent's eyes - In an attempt to winnow out party biases, in swing districts, voters were given choices between the incumbent and a presumed challenger (e.g. in Pennsylvania, voters were asked about Rick Santorum and Bob Casey Jr specifically). Democrats were preferred 45% to 28% over Republicans, with 25% undecided (in the aforementioned race, voters preferred Casey 53-31). It should be noted that, in 2004, these voters overwhelmingly chose Bush over Kerry.
» Not surprisingly, "values" comes into play - but not "family values." Voters are angry because the government "seems to put the needs of corporate interests ahead of the needs of average families" (73% agreed with that statement.) 74% agreed that "government should do more [for] working and middle class families" so that they do not get left behind economically. Clinton's values initiatives seem to have been received warmly by these folks.
» Clean energy, health care, and education were high priorities - All demographics-- age group, regions, and income groups-- agreed by almost 2:1 that eliminating the recently-passed tax cuts for corporations and individuals making over $200,000 a year and spending that money on alternative energy development, education and affordable health care is an important need.
» The deficit matters. Government accountability matters - 70% of these voters say that Americans rely too much on government, but of that 70%, nearly all of them say they pay too much in taxes that gets wasted by the government's inefficiency. So it's not so much the victims that are being blamed, as the people spending the money.
What does all this mean? It means, if Democrats are going to mine the center for votes in the upcoming election, they have to be concerned about the needs of middle and working class families. Period. Stop arguing over things like "moral values," and start focusing on real values that matter to people: how to put food on the table, how can my kids compete in the world ahead of them, and how can we afford fuel our future.
Progressive economic issues, in other words. Looking forward, and helping people feel comfortable that they can bridge the yawning gap between the security we've known and the tough times ahead. Pay down the deficit. Improve opportunity for all.
But there's more to this than convincing the sliver-thin margin of independent swing voters of our plans. We have to energize our base the way the Republicans did in 2004. We all point to how thin Bush's win was, but he received 6 million MORE votes in 2004 than in 2000 (Kerry received 3 million more than Gore). That speaks to me of a motivated, energized base that rallied around their candidate. This year, that base may very well stay home, but it might not. We have to make sure that we get enough liberals concerned (hell...I'll settle for angry) enough to get out and make their voices heard.
We have to speak to fiscal responsibility and deficit reduction, yes, but we also have to make it clear that our priorities are straight, that the spending that is going to be cut isn't going to harm the average American. That the taxes we will ahve to raise will be on the richest Americans, the Paris Hiltons, even the Warren Buffetts.
We have to make it clear that we will get out of Iraq, maybe not right away, but we'll damn sure not drag our feet until the Iraqis have stood up. That might take centuries, and we can't afford that. And with the newly-freed troops, we have to make sure that the country knows we will find Osama, and bring him to justice: kill him if necessary, but try him if possible.
Finally, we have to reform Washington so that people can learn to trust the government again.
UPDATE: I managed to get Anna Greenberg and Guy Molyneux on the phone this afternoon, and found out some more good news: according to a survey released by the Pew research firm yesterday, Republicans are the least motivated voting group in 2006, by a margin of some 15 points, and mirrored almostly perfect the voting enthusiasm shown in 1994 when the Gingrich revolt occured. In fact, independet voters were more motivated than Republicans and traditionally, independent voters are the hardest to get to the polls since by definition, people who identify themselves with a political party have a basic motivation and identification with the political process.
The states in which this survey was conducted are:
Pennsylvania, Montana, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota, and Tennessee.
AZ 1, 8
CA 11, 50
CO 3, 4, 7
CT 2, 4, 5
FL 8, 9, 22
GA 8, 12
IA 1, 3
IL 6, 8
IN 2, 7, 8, 9
KY 2, 3, 4
LA 3, 7
MN 2, 6
NC 8, 11
ND (at large)
NH 1, 2
NV 2, 3
NY 1, 19, 20, 29
OH 1, 5, 6, 13, 15, 18
PA 6, 7, 8, 10
SD (at large)
TX 17, 22
VT (at large)
WA 2, 8
Poll Presentation Here
Press Release Here