Elections matter. The 2008 presidential election of Barack Obama was historic. The 2010 Senate election of Scott Brown was less symbolic, but perhaps more substantive. President Obama should learn from last week’s result. Massachusetts voters spoke loudly, and what they said bodes ill for the President’s agenda of expanded government.
President Obama took office at a time of economic crisis. Americans wanted change, and a majority gave their votes to Barack Obama. But events haven’t worked out as people expected: Americans haven’t seen the change that they desired. That's why Scott Brown was elected to the Senate seat long held by Ted Kennedy: Massachusetts citizens overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama in November 2008; they voted for Brown in January 2010.
The President's State of the Union showed that he had gotten this message—in part. He knows that turning around the economy is paramount, and that voters are disgusted with Washington. Yet he needs to dig deeper to understand more. He might start by looking closely at the results of a poll conducted by our sister organization, the Independent Women’s Voice, of Massachusetts voters. The results show that it will take more than new rhetoric to win back voters: voters are focused on issues and want real change in Washington.
The poll showed that health care was voters' most important concern. Nearly one-third of those polled put the current health care debate as their top priority. Another 57 percent ranked it in the top three. And even in liberal Massachusetts, voters don’t back a government medical takeover. Of those who ranked health care as their number one concern, 51 percent opposed the leading congressional proposals.
The preferences of self-identified political independents are most telling: Independent men rejected the measure by a 57 percent to 35 percent margin. Independent women were opposed by a similar margin: 55 percent to 33 percent.
Voters want a fresh start on health care. Only 16 percent of respondents believed that health care negotiations should “keep going as it is,” and nearly half thought it would be important to open the legislative process to the public.