So, what do the people really want? We have some polls today.
First, let's look at Gallup:
A 55% majority of Americans say President Obama and congressional Democrats should suspend work on the health care bill that has been on the verge of passage and consider alternatives that would draw more Republican support, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds.[39% say they should keep working on it.]
The findings underscore the unsettled prospects for health care legislation — which has consumed much of the capital's attention for nearly a year — in the wake of Republican Scott Brown's upset victory in the Massachusetts Senate race Tuesday. When sworn in, he will give Republicans the 41st vote they need to sustain a filibuster and block action.
I'd be very surprised if the Democrats pushed through the Senate bill in light of those findings. But they could surprise me.
I suspect that people responded that way simply because they are exhausted with this debate and don't want to hear about it anymore. They do not understand that the Republicans have no intention of passing any kind of health reform, or that Jim DeMint called it Obama's Waterloo and said that it would "break him." (They might have if Democrats had used Republican obstructionism as a weapon the way that Republicans would have used it against them.) They think that if only the Democrats would put forth a reasonable bill, the Republicans would have to vote for it. And in a reasonable political world that would be true.
In other polling (pdf) however,we find a very different result from the Massachusetts election:
You tell me which poll the Villagers are going to believe.
1. This was a working-class revolt, and it reveals the danger to Democrats of not successfully addressing workers’ economic concerns.
- Coakley won this election by five points among college graduates, but lost the non-college vote by a 20-point margin. This represents a huge swing amongn on-college voters since 2008, when Obama won by 21 points, for a net swingof 41 points. (The comparable change among college graduates was a net25-point decline, from +30 to +5).
- Non-college men voted for Brown by a 27-point margin (59% to 32%), and non-college women also voted for Brown by 13 points (while college women went for Coakley by 13 points).
2. Voters still have the same goals they had in November 2008: fix the economy and provide affordable health care. But they don’t see the job being done.
- Gender dynamics were less important than the class dimension: the 15-point gender gap (men voted for Brown by 13 points, women voted for Coakley by two points) was actually considerably smaller than the 24-point gap in 2008.
- Economic dissatisfaction played a large role in Brown’s victory. The majority of voters who said the Massachusetts economy is not so good or poor (52%) voted for Brown by 56% to 39%. However, voters who said the economy was excellent, good, or fair supported Coakley by 52% to 43%.
- Brown even won voters in the 20% of households in which someone had lost a job in the past year (50% to 45%).
- Voters’ believed the federal government has helped Wall Street—61% say government recession policies have helped Wall Street and large banks a lot or a fair amount—but not average working people (only 18%).
- The most important qualities voters were looking for in electing a senator were someone who will (1) fix the economy and (2) reform the health care system. Sending a message to President Obama and Congress about the size of government was much less important.
- “Electing a candidate who will strengthen the economy and create more good jobs” (79% single most/very important factor).
- “Electing a candidate who is committed to controlling health care costs and covering the uninsured” (54% single most/very important factor).
3. Massachusetts voters say that President Obama and the Democrats have done too little, rather than attempted too much.
- “Sending a message that President Obama and Congress are going too far in expanding government's role in our lives” (42% single most/very important).
- Voters were not worried about Democratic “overreach”—47% said their bigger concern about Democrats is that they haven't succeeded in making needed change rather than tried to make too many changes too quickly (32%). Even Brown voters are more concerned about a lack of change (50%) than about trying to make too many changes too quickly (43%).
4. The results of this election were not a call to abandon national health care reform.
- Massachusetts voters significantly are more concerned about Democrats doing too much to help banks and Wall Street (54%) than about imposing too many regulations on business (22%). Even Brown voters are more concerned about Democrats’ helping banks (55%) than about imposing government regulations (36%).
- 82% of voters were aware of Scott Brown's opposition to health care legislation supported by President Obama and congressional Democrats, but it had virtually no net impact on the Senate election. Those who knew Brown’s position were as likely to say it made them less likely (39%) to support him as to say it made them more likely to support him (41%).
- Brown actually lost among the 59% of voters who picked health care as one of their top two voting issues (50% Coakley, 46% Brown). Brown voters (55%) were less likely to cite health care as a top issue than were Coakley voters (66%).
- Two-thirds (67%) favor the Massachusetts health insurance law that ensures nearly universal coverage, including 53% of Brown voters.
- However, Massachusetts voters did show deep concerns about the possibility that health care reform would tax employer health benefits. Fully 42% of voters believed the health care bill would tax employer health benefits, and those voters voted for Brown by two to one (64% to 32%) while voters who knew the plan would not tax benefits voted for Coakley (54% to 40%). Among voters who believed the health care bill would tax employer benefits, half (48%) said this issue made them more likely to vote for Scott Brown (just 14% were more likely to vote for Coakley).
Update: Add this one to the mix and I think we can see the CW gelling:
The poll by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University's School of Public Health underscores how significantly voter anger has turned against Democrats in Washington and how dramatically the political landscape has shifted during President Obama's first year in office.
Sixty-three percent of Massachusetts special-election voters say the country is seriously off track, and Brown captured two-thirds of these voters in his victory over Democrat Martha Coakley. In November 2008, Obama scored a decisive win among the more than eight in 10 Massachusetts voters seeing the country as off course.
Nearly two-thirds of Brown's voters say their vote was intended at least in part to express opposition to the Democratic agenda in Washington, but few say the senator-elect should simply work to stop it. Three-quarters of those who voted for Brown say they would like him to work with Democrats to get Republican ideas into legislation in general; nearly half say so specifically about health-care legislation.
When Obama was elected, 63 percent of Massachusetts voters said government should do more to solve problems, according to exit polling then. In the new poll, that number slipped to 50 percent, with about as many, 47 percent, saying that government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.
Like Obama, Coakley won more than 70 percent of those pro-government voters, but the bigger pool of voters seeing government overreach helped Brown claim victory.
Health care topped jobs and the economy as the most important issue driving Massachusetts voters, but among Brown voters, "the way Washington is working" ran a close second to the economy and jobs as a factor.
Overall, just 43 percent of Massachusetts voters say they support the health-care proposals advanced by Obama and congressional Democrats; 48 percent oppose them. Among Brown's supporters, however, eight in 10 said they were opposed to the measures, 66 percent of them strongly so.
Sizable majorities of Brown voters see the Democrats' plan, if passed, as making things worse for their families, the country and the state of Massachusetts. Few Coakley voters see these harms, and most of those backing her see clear benefits for the country if health-care reform became law. Less than half of Coakley's supporters say they or the state would be better off as a result.
Unless we get some serious profiles in courage, I'm not seeing any realistic scenario in which the Democrats will go forward with the results of those polls, even if the Massachusetts AFL-CIO poll (#2) is more accurate. I hope I'm wrong.