The Hill: Poll: Independents prefer cutting the deficit to spending on jobs

The Republican Party’s focus on reducing the federal deficit may be resonating with independent voters who could swing the midterm elections.

While Democrats and Republicans split along predictable partisan lines on the question of whether the government should prioritize spending on jobs or cutting the deficit, independents in 10 battleground congressional districts break sharply toward the GOP’s point of view.

Fifty-two percent of independent voters in The Hill’s 2010 Midterm Election poll cited debt reduction as a priority, compared with only 39 percent who said additional federal spending to create jobs is more important.

Overall, 47 percent of voters in the 10 districts think deficit-cutting should take precedence over employment spending, while 46 percent said the focus should be on the government’s red ink.

“The deficit is cutting against Democrats particularly because independent voters, typically, are very concerned about the deficit,” said pollster Mark Penn of Penn Schoen Berland, which conducted the survey of 4,047 voters in 10 open seats. The sample had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percent.

Penn said independent voters who make more than $100,000 per year are particularly focused on debt reduction.

“As a matter of policy, it’s closely divided, but as a matter of politics, that issue going into these midterms is favoring the Republicans,” Penn said.

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The Hill: Poll: Majority of voters say they want a viable third party in American politics

The Hill: Poll: Majority of voters say they want a viable third party in American politics
October 13, 2010

A majority of likely voters think a viable third party would be good for American politics, according to a new poll of likely voters in 10 key open House districts.

Those voters are split, however, on whether the Tea Party should be that alternative.

Fifty-four percent of respondents in The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll said they’d like an alternative to the Democrats and Republicans.

That number rose to 67 percent for self-identified independents. But even a plurality in the established parties — 49 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of Republicans — said they’d like another choice.

“That’s probably the strongest number I’ve seen in a poll of people in America saying that they’re interested in a third party,” said pollster Mark Penn.

“There’s a record number of Independents and a record number of people looking for a possible third party,” he said. “And that’s a big finding. There’s an opportunity here.”

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The Hill: Poll: Independents prefer divided government and are leaning Republican

The Hill: Poll: Independents prefer divided government and are leaning Republican
October 6, 2010

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.

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.

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The New York Times: Mark Penn answers “How Can Obama Rebound?”

How Can Obama Rebound?

Though BP managed to stop the spread of oil from its broken well last week, President Obama has been able to do little to stop the drop in his public approval ratings, which now, according to a new ABC News-Washington Post poll, hover just above 40 percent. Add these numbers to the comment by Robert Gibbs, the president’s press secretary, that Democrats could lose control of the House in the November elections, and it equals trouble for the president in 2012. So what does Mr. Obama need to do to shore up his base, woo back independent voters and win a second term? The Op-Ed editors asked political experts to suggest a few plans of attack.

Middle Man
By MARK PENN, adviser and pollster to the 1996 Clinton campaign and chief executive of Burson-Marsteller

The most important thing President Obama can do, as Bill Clinton did during his first term, is retake ownership of the center — the voters who elected him but now feel he has moved too far to the left. That means making a real down payment on the deficit, revamping the health care act to address the cost issue, opening up new markets overseas and creating jobs by promoting innovation through spending on basic research.

Rather than cut the space program, he should double its size. He should make sure that every American with a broadband connection has access to online education. He should offer research grants and tax incentives to promote investment in our coal, natural gas and biofuel resources, as well as wind and solar energy.

Voters will re-elect President Obama only if they believe that America is on the move, creating and building things. Homeownership is still a vital part of the American dream and must remain a goal of his administration, despite the housing crisis. And he should work with both parties to come to a reasonable compromise on immigration reform, one that would create a clearer path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and effectively control the borders.

After the midterms, President Obama will likely face the same decision that President Clinton faced in 1994 — to stay the course on the left or return to the center. His choice could be the difference between a one-term presidency and four more years governing with the coalition that elected him.

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Washington Post: From the US to the UK, new political winds, writes Mark Penn

From the US to the UK, new political winds

Published May 6, 2010

Thursday’s elections in Britain could be a harbinger of what is likely to come to America in the not-too-distant future: new movements and even parties that shake up the political system. Cleggmania shows that even the most tradition-bound electoral systems are facing the pressures of rapid change made possible by modern communications. These movements may not win out of the gate, but they will become significant political factors.

While the Constitution established three branches of government, the system of political parties grew up outside of that, securing itself through what were at first formidable local infrastructures and later with skillful redistricting, ballot-access laws and contribution limits that worked to preserve the status quo. In the 1940s, this really was a red or blue country, with about 85 percent of voters identifying as Republican or Democratic. Today, about 40 percent of Americans are political nomads, wandering from party to party in search of a permanent home. They peer at more than 100 varieties of coffee drinks at Starbucks and wonder why they have only two bipolar choices in politics.

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The Washington Post: Mark Penn answers “Topic A”: Would U.S. politics benefit from a third party?

Britain’s Nick Clegg. Florida’s Charlie Crist. Would U.S. politics benefit from a third party? The Washington Post asked Mark Penn and other political experts for their assessment.

Chief executive of Burson-Marsteller; adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign; pollster and adviser to Bill Clinton from 1995 through 2000.

So Starbucks has 155 combinations of coffee but America and Great Britain only have two parties?

The election in Britain could be a game changer if the Liberal Democrats get nearly 30 percent of the vote. For the first time the major parties agreed to debates, and the results so far have been stunningly favorable for the outsider party.

In the United States, we have the structural issue that there are many Democrats who are socially liberal and economically more conservative than the leadership. And the Republicans have many members who believe in the economic philosophy of the party but reject the religious right. Both groups are not entirely comfortable with their party and have see-sawed in their voting.

On top of this, we have a record number of independents in the country, along with new, open media and Supreme Court rulings that make it easier and easier for non-party interests to participate in politics. This is why it is critically important for Democrats to welcome the vital center.

But if party primaries are driven farther to the left and the right by partisans, we are going to see more independent candidates at all levels. It’s part of the natural change in politics, and I think all eyes will be on Britain to see the final result.

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C-SPAN: Mark Penn talks about the 2010 Midterm Elections at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service

Mark Penn, Democratic political strategist, talked about the current political climate in Washington, D.C., heading into November’s midterm elections.

Watch the video at the C-SPAN Video Library