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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

DCorps/CAF Poll: Jobs Trump Deficit, Spending Concerns

A new poll conducted 1/9-12 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for Democracy Corps and Campaign for America’s Future presents “a clear and dramatic message” for the President and Congress: It’s all about jobs and the restoration of a healthy economy. As the memo from TDS Co-Editor Stan Greenberg, James Carville and Robert Borosage, explains:

The media pundits and Washington conventional wisdom say deficit reduction and cutting gov-ernment spending are the top priorities for the nation; yet, the Republican Congress has prioritized health care repeal and Social Security cuts (which are on the table for the first time.) They could not have it more wrong. It is jobs, stupid.

This survey results, released on the eve of the President’s State of the Union address, shows a significant uptick in his “personal favorability” ratings, all the more impressive since it was conducted before his much-praised address memorializing the victims of the Tucson shooting. Also, for the President, “strong disapproval has plummeted.” Moreover, President Obama is “marginally ahead of Mitt Romney and dramatically ahead of Sarah Palin in the 2012 race.”
The poll also shows some modest improvement for congressional Democrats over 2010, when they were down by 8 points. Dems trail Republicans in a named Congressional ballot by 3 points and by 4 among Independents. The survey concludes that Dems and the GOP “are at rough parity in public image.” The authors warn, however, that,

…Right now, Democrats are basically invisible on the economy and jobs. Republicans are more trusted by 4 points on the economy and the parties are at parity on creating jobs…We all know the unemployment rate will exceed 9 percent for some time to come, and will probably remain above 8 percent up to the election. There is no more important fact. In this survey, 17 percent report being unemployed in the past year; 41 percent counting themselves or someone in their immediate family – one half of white non-college men.

But, looking forward, Dems could gain traction:

Voters could be on the verge of registering some buyers’ remorse for the Republican leadership…Republicans are about to confront the gap between the mandate they claim and the voters’ priorities. This presents an opportunity for Democrats to define themselves, the choice ahead, and more importantly, to finally show what they believe about the economy and how they plan to achieve growth – above all, how to create jobs now and in the future…The President and the Democrats have to start over in communicating their vision on the economy. The country embraces long-term plans for investment to create jobs and favors growth as the best route to deficit reduction – strongly favoring investment over austerity.

In terms of priorities, the survey findings couldn’t be more clear:

Though respondents could choose two problems, just 25 percent say “the budget deficit is big and growing.” While it is important, it is not their top concern.
Just 17 percent think the priority for the new Congress should be repealing health care. The Republican obsession with health care repeal does not correspond with the views of the voters…
The new Congress is about to get it very wrong. The voters believe the top priority should be economic recovery and jobs (46 percent), protecting Social Security and Medicare (34 percent), and making sure children receive an education for these times (27 percent). Cutting spending and the size of government is fourth on the list, at 25 percent, and reducing the size of the budget deficit is sixth–at only 15 percent.

The poll presents additional data indicating that the Republicans are on shaky ground with proposals to cut Social Security, reduce spending and repeal health care reform. For Dems, it is a “better environment than last November,” according to the authors, who dilineate the demographic challenge ahead for Dems:

…In the broad base at the heart of their electoral majority, Democrats are doing respectably at the outset of 2011, though they have to make significant additional gains with young voters and unmarried women if they are to get back to 2012 levels. They also need to do better with union households.

In addition, the authors note continuing Democratic weak support with “white non-college voters,” “white seniors” and “rural non-South white voters.” To make inroads with these and all constituencies, Greenberg, Carville and Borosage see a clear path to victory in 2012: “This is an opportunity for Democrats and the president to show that they get the message: jobs and a big plan to get America going. Protect Social Security and Medicare. This is both good policy and good politics.”

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