Poll: 2010 could be 'year of the angry white male' redux

Voters are in a sour mood, which could lead to trouble for incumbents in Congress and statehouses in 2010, bipartisan pollsters say. Will it be a repeat of the 'Republican revolution' of 1994?

By , Staff writer

A new Battleground Poll shows that “voters tend to describe themselves as angry, pessimistic, anxious, and depressed,” says Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, a political strategy firm that works for Democratic candidates.

Ms. Lake and Republican pollster Ed Goeas jointly oversee the Battleground Poll.

Things may get worse for office holders after Christmas, as voters deal with holiday bills and with the effects of layoffs that often come just before the end of the year.

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“Whatever mood the voters are in right now, they are likely to be in a particularly ornery mood toward every elected official by January,” Lake says. “And one of the more interesting places they may take this out is less at the federal election [level] and more at the governorships. You may see a record number of governorships change party.”

Democrats in trouble?

With Democrats holding control of both houses of Congress, angry voters could spell trouble for the party in 2010 elections, argues Mr. Goeas, CEO of the Tarrance Group.

“There is a potential for [2010] being a 1994 year of the angry white male,” Goeas says. That year, Democrats lost 54 seats and Republicans took control of the House for the first time in 40 years.

Battleground Poll data shows independent voters now rank 13 percentage points higher than Democrats [77 percent versus 64 percent] in saying they are likely to vote in the next election. “So the pool of angry independents is larger than what you normally see in an off election year…. It is certainly something that is going to be problematic for the Democrats,” Goeas says.

Pollsters Goeas and Lake were guests at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters on Wednesday. The George Washington University Battleground Poll surveyed 1,000 registered voters nationwide Dec. 6 to 9. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Who Americans trust on the economy

On the issue of turning the economy around, voters still favor Democrats in Congress over Republicans by a margin of 44 percent to 40 percent. But the Democrats’ lead has been slipping.

"We haven’t proven to the voters that we are spending money to create jobs for them. And that is the test,” Lake says. “And we have about an economic quarter to do it in. And either we are going to show that [economic recovery spending] is going to produce results on Main Street in the economy or voters are really going to conclude this is just too much spending for too little results.”

Republican pollster Goeas thinks voters will focus more and more on the issue of federal spending as the economy improves. “The good news for Republicans is we lead” on who voters trust to handle wasteful spending by 44 to 32 percent, he says.

Goeas also notes that a second wave of voter concern on taxes normally follows a focus on spending. And Republicans also lead on the issue of holding down taxes.

The Tea Party threat

A new Rasmussen Poll found Tea Party candidates outpaced Republicans 23 percent to 18 percent in a generic congressional race. Goeas noted that the polling method used in getting this result tends to over count voters with especially intense feelings.

The Tea Party is "a very vocal group out there that have a very good point in terms of what is happening ... but at the end of the day they are going to have to choose between who is the enemy,” Goeas says. “My advice has been ... 'We agree with you, hey let's go get ‘em' as opposed to trying to control them, trying to lead them, trying to be part of them. At the end of the day, it is going to come down to a choice between two” main parties.

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