Fret Factor
What worries voters more, a Republican or Democratic Congress?


What concerns voters as we approach the November elections?

Some anxieties are obvious. A slow economy, anemic job creation, and record spending and debt are just a few of the bigger bricks in their wall of worry.

But do citizens also fret about who runs Congress? Based on some of the advertising so far this campaign cycle, the answer should be yes.

After all, Republicans (say the Democrats) will pillage the middle class, coddle Wall Street, and privatize Social Security. Rich people, fat cats, and entitlement cuts — oh my!

Last week, the New York Times’ Jackie Calmes and Michael D. Shear reported that Democrats may hit the national airwaves with their message:

President Obama’s political advisers, looking for ways to help Democrats and alter the course of the midterm elections in the final weeks, are considering a range of ideas, including national advertisements, to cast the Republican Party as all but taken over by Tea Party extremists, people involved in the discussion said.

Democrats will try to convince voters that Republican out-of-the-mainstream thinking has costs: “We need to get out the message that it’s now really dangerous to re-empower the Republican Party,” a Democratic strategist told Calmes and Shear.

For their part, Republicans will contend that the Obama/Pelosi/Reid axis is really the danger; that the Democrats will spend us into serfdom and smother America with new Washington czars and regulations.

So, do Americans believe Republicans or Democrats? Surveys rarely ask voters whether they worry more about Democrats’ or Republicans’ running Congress, but in a recent poll I helped conduct for Resurgent Republic, we did just that. We asked voters what worried them more, “a Republican majority in the House or Democrats maintaining the majority in the House (or Senate).” And by a 16-point margin (51 percent to 35 percent), voters said Democratic control worried them more. Among those “certain to vote,” the Republican edge grew even larger, to 26 points on the question of the House majority.

Not surprisingly, those who identify with a political party show comfort with their own team. Nearly nine in ten Republicans worry more about Democrats’ maintaining control, while more than seven in ten Democrats say a GOP majority creates concern. Interestingly, though, more Democrats (11 percent) than Republicans (4 percent) “worry” about their own party controlling Congress.

But what about independents? By a 35-point margin (59 percent to 24 percent), independents say they worry more about a continued Democratic majority in the House. The numbers narrow to a 24-point spread (53 percent to 29 percent) when independents are asked about the Senate.

These results are consistent with research conducted by Resurgent Republic earlier this year, which showed that independents prefer checks and balance between Congress and the president, as opposed to the Democrats’ holding a majority in order to help the president pass his agenda.

Voters’ “worry agenda” is particularly important during these troubled economic times. These results suggest a burning desire among the public for political balance following the Democrats’ radical enlargement of government over the past two years. This is the central reason that independents — after tilting heavily away from Republicans in the 2006 midterms — have now swung back toward the GOP.

– Gary Andres is vice chairman of research for Dutko Worldwide.