Independents don't want big government

Independents are nonideological problem-solvers, but they do not have a split-the-difference approach to politics. They are fiscally conservative but socially progressive, with a strong libertarian streak. It’s on fiscal issues that independents are putting the Obama administration on notice.

Bailout backlash is reflected in independents’ attitude about the expanding social safety net. Just 43% believe that we “should help more needy people, even if it means going deeper into debt” — down 14 points over two years. Independents’ belief that “labor unions are necessary to protect the working person” has declined 23% since 2003. They are closer to the Republican view that government is usually wasteful and inefficient…

In order to win these voters, the hunt for heretics has got to stop. The reality is that all young voters are less conservative on social issues ranging from gay rights to the role of religion in politics. A big tent can be rebuilt on Republican principles of fiscal responsibility and national security, but it will require the politics of addition — not division.