According to the new Washington Post poll of Massachusetts voters, between approximately one-third and one-half of Brown’s voters claimed that neither Obama (52%) nor the Democratic agenda (29%) in Washington was a factor in their vote. The difference in opposition to Obama among Brown voters (43%) and opposition to the Democratic agenda (65%) is fairly remarkable, as if one could cast a vote to convey displeasure with the agenda without also sending a message of opposition to Obama. Inexplicably, a small percentage of Brown voters (4 and 5% respectively) said that they were voting for Brown to express support for Obama or the Democratic agenda. We also find that 29% of Brown’s voters had voted for Obama, and 33% still approve of Obama’s job performance. 24% of Brown voters are enthusiastic or satisfied with administration policies! They have a funny way of showing it.
It is clear that two-thirds of Brown’s voters wished to express their opposition to the Democrats’ agenda, which is to say that pretty much everyone who did not vote for Obama in 2008 does not support Obama’s agenda and wanted to express their opposition to it. I think we knew that before Tuesday. Over a third of Brown’s voters (37%) were dissatisfied or even angry with Congressional Republican policies, which is what you might expect when almost that many of Brown’s voters approve of Obama’s performance and the Congressional GOP is dedicated to thwarting Obama in everything he does.
Looking at what Brown’s voters want him to do with respect to health care, we see that they are divided right down the middle: 50% (47% strongly) do want Brown to work to halt Democratic health care efforts, and 48% (40% strongly) want him to work with Democrats to make changes to their proposals. Half of Brown’s voters want him to sink Obama’s agenda, full stop, and approximately half of them want him to collaborate with Democrats. That is what we might call a mixed message. Looking at Brown voters’ opposition to the health care bill itself, we see that two-thirds of them strongly oppose the bill, which is consistent with what we saw earlier, 14% “somewhat oppose” it and 13% actually support it. 26% of Brown voters believe government should be doing more “to solve problems.” 51% of Brown voters support MassCare. Perhaps most amusing, 52% of Brown voters approved of Ted Kennedy’s job performance.
So what we have here is a significant bloc of Brown voters, at least 24% of them, who approve of Obama, support his policies, and want more activist government, and some of them even support the bill Brown has promised to kill. On one level, it makes perfect sense that these people voted for Brown, because Obama and the Democratic agenda were apparently not factors in deciding how to vote. If they weren’t factors, Brown must have won their votes for some other reason. On another level, it seems bizarre and difficult to fathom that they would vote for someone campaigning on the promise to stop the policies and administration that they support. Perhaps had they been able to know how their votes would be interpreted, or rather misinterpreted, they might have voted differently, and Brown would have been limited to his core of McCain voters.