Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

November 3, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Post-election Analysis


  • Join Pollsters Bruce Merrill and Mike O’Neil as the talk about the outcome of the November 2nd election.
Guests:
  • Bruce Merrill - Pollster, ASU
  • Mike O'Neil - Pollster
Category: Vote 2010

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Republicans won big yesterday, the GOP took control of one house of Congress, and here in Arizona, conservative Republicans tightened their grip on the house and senate. Here to give us their analysis of the results are pollsters Bruce Merrill and Mike O'Neil. Thank you both for joining us tonight on "Horizon." We'll start with you, what message did you hear the voters sending yesterday?

Bruce Merrill:
I still think basically it's the economy. We know that in every election since 1896, with two exceptions, the party that wins the presidency loses seats in the off year. It was never any question that the Republican were going to pick up seats. It was how big, how many were they going to pick up. And I think with the economy the way it is, I really am not terribly surprised. This is the third election in a row that the party that won the presidency big-time, big sweep, was swept out two years later. And I think it just shows that we're in an electoral cycle because of the increasing number of independents, demographic changes, mass media, the way we use it four to $5 billion mass media this time. The electorate is very volatile and likely to stay that way for a while.

Ted Simons:
Is that the message you heard as well?

Michael O’Neil:
Yeah, and I think there's one other factor with respect to the house of representatives in particular. This is a wave election, but it was preceded by two wave elections in the other direction. So almost all of those seats that went back Republican had previously been Republican. Those were soft seats, and they won them all back.

Ted Simons:
Is the cycle so tight now that in two years we could see yet another tsunami from a different direction?

Michael O’Neil:
If you look at control of the house, the democrats were in control for 40 years, the Republicans took over for 12, the democrats have taken over for four, now they're out, that trend would suggest it's a two-year term.

Ted Simons: The frequency wave is getting tighter. What's happening here in two years?

Bruce Merrill:
Well, I think anything -- again, two years is an eternity in modern society. And nobody knows. I think -- I still think to some degree it's back to the economy. Is the economy going to get better? But I think mike's point is such a good one, because if you really look at the Democratic seats that were lost, those were mainly the moderates that were swept in with Obama two years ago. The net effect of that in Congress is going to be that Obama could be faced with a Democratic caucus that is more critical of him in some of his policies than some of the Republican people. And on the other side, what's happening with the Republicans, they've got to pay attention to the Tea Partyers. Their caucus is going to be more conservative. The danger for us, gridlock for the next two years.

Ted Simons:
The voters of Arizona, did they send a different message than what you heard from around the country.

Michael O’Neil:
I think it was similar, but the consequence was different. What we have in Arizona right now is one party government. The Republicans own everything, and it's not close. Veto proof majorities -- so essentially, we have a very conservative governor, Jan Brewer, who is facing an even more conservative legislature. That dynamics, the consequences are very different, but it was Republican year and that was manifest here as well.

Ted Simons:
Is it just because it's a Republican year? Was it 1070 -- is there anything that a Harry Mitchell or -- anything they could have done?

Bruce Merrill:
Not at the congressional level. I think I would agree 100% with Mike, there was no question that there was a Republican tide. But at the state level, every race in Arizona I felt the democrats were behind by anywhere from five to seven percentage points, simply because of 1070. There's no question that 1070 set the environment for the elections in Arizona? This time, and it was heavily in favor of the Republicans from day one.

Michael O’Neil:
Obvious -- the -- even beyond the governor, you had a race for attorney general, Tom Horne's whole campaign was signs that said "I support 1070" and he wasn't particularly involved in the establishment of 1070. He wrapped himself around that. There is a Republican tidal wave. There's no race more emblematic of that than Harry Mitchell, who faced the same opponent, beat him decisively two years ago, and lost this time.

Ted Simons:
Did anyone in state races, anyone in congressional races, anyone anywhere win because of jobs?

Bruce Merrill:
Well, I don't know. But it's certainly almost cost Grijalva his seat. That district is so heavily Hispanic and Democratic, and yet they're still counting votes, and it's going to be a squeaker. Why? Because he came out in favor of the boycott, people in that district obviously thought that translate in addition the losing jobs and money in Arizona. And so I really do think that that race shows kind of this convergence of what mike is talking about of the Republican sweep and the economic policy.


Ted Simons:
And mike as we look at the numbers, and it is still very close, obviously it looks as though representative Grijalva will hold on to this. Again, we kept hearing many Republicans running on the economy, running on jobs. Nationwide. But in also congressional races. 1070 a big factor, to but the question remains, yes, economy, yes, jobs. Anyone win because of that?

Michael O’Neil:
I that I whole lot of Republicans won because of that.

Ted Simons:
Because they have a plan?

Michael O’Neil:
No. No. No. No. The reason the Republicans won this election is because they didn't do that. They made this referendum a referendum on Obama and the status of the economy. There are surveys just about everyone throughout that shows the Republicans in Congress are actually less popular than the democrats, and less popular than Obama. But that -- people weren't voting between two alternatives. They were voting a referenda on Obama.

Ted Simons:
Is that what we're seeing in the state as well when voters said we don't want to take away first things first, or get rid of money for conservation, but oh, by the way, we're putting in folks that want to get rid of those particular programs.

Bruce Merrill:
I think mike's made the point. That's that we have a one-party Republican state. I it this last time I looked the Republican legislature had about a 10% positive rating. I think 301 and 302, people don't trust politician right now. And I think the disconnect with the economy was not with the public policies, but I think for the average guy, that didn't know if he could pay his bills or send his kids to college, you can talk in a theoretical sense about all these programs that are going to help the economy, but I think this time a lot of people just said, it didn't help me. I didn't see anything come out of Washington that really helped me. And that -- if Obama doesn't change that, if the democrats don't change that, they could be in trouble again.

Michael O’Neil:
The biggest mistake that Obama made when he -- I know what he was trying to do, he was trying to cheer lead the economy. He said give us the stimulus, we won't go above 8%. I think that was ill-considered, because at that moment nobody -- all we knew is it was going to be bad. Nobody had any idea how bad it was going to be. But he set a Standard and then ultimately couldn't live up to that. What we don't know is absent the stimulus how bad would it have been. If I could make the point, I think the most staggering thing in this election is 301, 302, where people said, yes, we don't trust the legislature, look at the last thing we voted for. A sales tax increase that the entire legislature was adamantly opposed to. So on three separate policy issues, not only did people vote them down, they voted the biggest margins of any of the proposals, the propositions were anti301, and anti-- and 302.

Ted Simons:
How are we reconciling this? Back when the property tax -- the sales tax increase was voted in, we had people running around saying the legislature is out of touch, the legislature has no idea what Arizonans want. Now we've got this election, and the lawmakers are saying, we know exactly what Arizonans want. They want to us cut, cut, cut.

Bruce Merrill:
Well, I don't want to get too philosophical, but it does raise the question almost that we have two electorates. We have a white, rich electorate, and people of color, low socioeconomic people, that have very few resources. I think public policy, the votes that we're looking at right now, almost reflect this white upper class constituency, and I would almost ask, who represents this underserved population in Arizona or the country? Kids in Arizona, not having health insurance, poor kids, who represents them down there? It's a real problem.

Ted Simons:
Do you see that as well?

Michael O’Neil:
Let me -- let me read to you about one particular voting group. This is a group, it's 54% democrat, 30% Republican. They approve of Obama by 51-35. They're not satisfied with the way the nation is going. They approved by 50 to 36% the health care legislation, and most of them are under 50 years old. You know who that group is? Those are the people who did not vote in the election yesterday.

Ted Simons:
So how come, why didn't they vote? Why -- and I've asked this question before -- SB 1070 in Arizona brought masses to the street. Lots of marching, lots of shouting, yelling, screaming, where were they yesterday?

Michael O’Neil:
They never come out. 2008 was the only exception in our history, and what this election has proven is that's not a permanent state of affairs. I was a one-time deal.

Bruce Merrill:
I think what happens with the democrats is in general this time, is Obama still popular as a person. His wife is very popular. But what happened with the democrats this time is he wasn't on the ticket. So it was hard to mobilize the people that brought him into power. That's going to be one thing that will be different for the democrats in two years. He'll be on the ticket.

Ted Simons:
The out of state money and citizens united, the Supreme Court decision in general, talk about it, did we see much of that happening this election? Will we see a whole heck of a lot more in two years?

Bruce Merrill:
Well, part of the problem is we don't know. We really don't know where the sources of the money came from, we don't know how much. What we do know, and yes should be very concerned about, probably spending this election cycle somewhere between four and $5 billion. I think we should be very concerned about the amount of money in politics and what --

Ted Simons:
The idea some of races, state races, whatever, here in Arizona, with so much money being poured in from outside sources, concerned?

Michael O’Neil:
I'm absolutely concerned. But the Supreme Court said that's a first amendment issue, we can't do anything about it. That decision trumps any legislation, or any initiative. I mean, I'm just dumbfounded. Basically we've been handed government to the highest bidder.

Ted Simons:
Is that how you see it?

Bruce Merrill:
Absolutely.

Ted Simons:
We've talked before, you and I have talked about how the Republican party was in some ways in a civil war. The extreme right with the moderates whoever they may be, out there. Is that still exist even after a tidal wave like yesterday?

Bruce Merrill:
I think it will be exacerbated in this next election cycle. As I said, in the Congress itself, you're going -- the Republicans have to pay attention to the Tea Partyers. I think the Tea Partyers Frankly have the potential to bring the Republican party down, or at least alter it to the point you won't recognize it as the Republican party we've seen in the past.

Ted Simons:
How long would that happen?

Bruce Merrill:
I think it could happen over the next two to six years.

Ted Simons:
Interesting. Do you agree with that?

Michael O’Neil:
Absolutely. They're the wild cards, and some of them said as much in their acceptance speeches. I'm going come, and I'm going throw bombs, and it's not business as usual. You know, Boehner, they're saying, we're going to -- Tea Party people are saying we didn't come here for that.

Ted Simons:
I'm old enough to remember when the Democratic party held a telethon, everyone thought the Democratic party was gone forever. Obviously not accurate. But a lot of folks right now are saying the Democratic party except for obviously pockets of leadership, is in serious trouble. First of all, do you agree, and second, what does the party do?

Michael O’Neil:
They've taken hit, but let's remember what the Republicans took over. They took over one half of one-third of the government. OK? They don't even have the senate, now, I think it's much more dramatic in terms of much more conservative Congress than it is a Republican one. I think there also is a self-correction mechanism when a party wins big, they tend to bring on a whole lot of people, it happened to the democrats and it's happened to the Republicans now who are not necessarily going to take positions that are going to make it easy for that party to become the consensus. That's why we've got -- only thing different, is the gyrations have come quicker and quicker.

Ted Simons:
Democratic party, what do they do?

Bruce Merrill:
Well, I think basically you get -- it's always been fascinating to me, in general, the democrats represent the working class, the lower socioeconomic classes, and minorities. There's a lot more poor people in America than there are rich people. And so there's potentially the Democratic party has a larger constituency. I just think we've done a very good job selling the idea of the myth that we don't want to criticize the rich people simply because we might be rich some day. But with this tremendous increase in independence in the past, what's fascinating to me, is have you a build up of independence and usually that's followed by a major realignment. And it's not clear where that might go. But there could be a lot of changes over the next few years.

Ted Simons:
All right. Gentlemen, thanks so much. Good stuff.


What's on?
  About KAET Contact Support Legal Follow Us  
  About Eight
Mission/Impact
History
Site Map
Pressroom
Contact Us
Sign up for e-news
Pledge to Eight
Donate Monthly
Volunteer
Other ways to support
FCC Public Files
Privacy Policy
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
Google+
Pinterest
 

Need help accessing? Contact disabilityaccess@asu.edu

Eight is a member-supported service of Arizona State University    Copyright Arizona Board of Regents