Politics is such a cynical exercise and it is out of control. Both of our major parties, which have ceased to be problem-solvers, now rely exclusively on a lowest-common-denominator approach to marketing: if you can’t vote for my candidate, I am at least going to convince you to not vote for theirs. In this one respect, the system seems to be working. Democrats are saying that demographics are on their side; Republicans say that President Barack Obama is the worst President since World War II. And this is what we are treated to as voters as we head toward the congressional elections in November.
In our latest Zogby Analytics poll (1,110 likely voters nationwide, June 27-29, +/-3 percentage points), we wondered which party is viewed as better in handling the major issues that face the nation today. On balance, the answer resoundingly is NEITHER. There are some narrow advantages on some issues that provide at least an opening for each party, but the level of cynicism toward both parties is stunning.
Which party best handles creating jobs? The Democrats and Republicans can each muster only 27% each, with 29% saying neither. Among the crucial group of independents the Democrats score 15%, the GOP 20%, buy 41% say neither.
With the economy sputtering and slowly moving itself toward recovery, the Republicans outscore the Democrats by a paltry 5 points – 30% to 25%, but 28% say neither, including 39% of the independents. Republicans trump also on taxes, 31% to 24%, with 29% saying neither – but 38% of independents say neither. Republicans can also claim to be defenders of the nation’s security as more voters overall say they do a better job (32%) than the Democrats (only 18%). One in four says neither party. And among independents the Democrats certainly do have a bigger problem with only 8% support to the Republicans’ 29%, with 37% saying neither. The GOP has a narrower edge on foreign policy, an issue that will loom large this fall: they outperform the Democrats 30% to 24%, with 26% saying neither. Among independents, the Democrats manage only single digits (6%) to the GOP’s 23% — but again 37% of the independents say neither.
Meanwhile, the Democrats do considerable on their issues: the environment (38%-13%, with 26% saying neither. They outscore the GOP 30% to 6% among independents). The Democrats also seem to be addressing the middle class on the income inequality (35%-14%, with 34% neither), though independents favor the Democrats 23% to 8%, with 46% saying neither; helping the middle class 35% to 22%, with 29% neither; understanding people like me (31% to 20%, with 33% neither)’ protecting Social Security/Medicare 31% to 22%, with 30% neither; and health care 30% to 22%, 28% neither.
In each case, too many independents are not impressed with either party. As we head toward the fall campaign , each side has some messages that could work. It will depend on which issues really come to the fore and dominant the debate. One thing is certain, one side will win somehow, neither side will be able to claim a real mandate, and substantial chunks of voters simply do not identify with either side.
How very sad.