When analyzing Congressional elections, one often hears the warning that “all politics are local,” meaning that using a national narrative often doesn’t work. Occasionally, though, an election will coalesce around national unhappiness, as happened in 1994 and 2006. According to a new Gallup poll, 2010 may be another where all politics will be national:
By 55% to 39%, more registered voters say a candidate’s stand on national issues — rather than his or her ability to help people at the district level — is what matters more to them in voting for Congress. The percentage naming issues as the more important factor is the highest recorded on this measure in the nearly two-decade-long Gallup trend, although similar to that seen at points in the last two midterm election years.
Republicans are considerably more likely than Democrats to emphasize national issues in their assessments of candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives. Whereas a solid majority of Republican registered voters, 63%, say a candidate’s positions on national issues are paramount to them, Democratic voters are evenly split at 46% in their emphasis on issues vs. district performance.
Notably, the majority of political independents share Republicans’ greater concern for national issues.
Obviously, Republicans want the midterms to rely on a national view of politics. American voters are deeply unhappy with the agenda pushed by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid on behalf of Barack Obama. Congress just spent nine months giving birth to a health-care overhaul law that voters reject by almost 20 points in most polls. and the failure of Obamanomics becomes more obvious as 2010 progresses. The percentage among Republicans and independents in focus on national issues has grown from minorities in 1994 to majorities in 2010, with particularly steep growth from 2006 to present.
Just as obviously, Democrats want to focus on local politics. That usually means pork-barrel politicking, talking to constituents about all of the federal bucks they bring back home. In this year, though, with debt skyrocketing and Congress seen as even more profligate than usual, that kind of platform could easily backfire. It may already have; a 46/46 split on this question means that some Democrats don’t want to hear about interference in local matters but in solving the crises that have descended on the nation — and implies that they’re not terribly satisfied with the results from Obama, Pelosi, and Reid so far.
Interestingly, in 1994 local politics led, and in 2006 it was almost an even split, 46/45 for national politics. This could mean a big year for a national narrative, and that definitely is good news for Republicans in this midterm.