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Is there a Republican Mandate?

- November 17, 2010

One of the key points Republicans will try to argue in the coming legislative session is that the elections represented a “mandate” to pursue certain policies. (They need to do this because despite their electoral triumph, their ability to implement policy remains weak as long as Democrats control the Senate and the Presidency). In particular, Republicans have argued that they have a “mandate to extend all of the Bush era tax cuts”:http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/republican-predict-big-gains-claim-mandate-on-taxes-20101031, as well as a “mandate to repeal health reform”:http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/opinion/todaysbuzz/os-todays-buzz-repeal-health-care-reform-111210,0,6878749.story. I addressed the latter of these topics “last week”:https://themonkeycage.org/2010/11/will_repealing_healthcare_refo.html, so thought I would turn to the former now. CNN has a “new poll out on the subject”:http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/11/17/rel16e.pdf, and here are the results:

* 35% of respondents think the tax cuts should be extended for everyone
* 49% of respondents think the tax cuts should be extended for those making under $250,000 a year
* 14% of respondents think the tax cuts should be *repealed* for everyone
* 1% have no opinion.

Interestingly, the results were identical when the wording of the question was changed to be less factual (e.g., for everyone, for those making under $250,000 a year) and more value laden (e.g., extend those tax cuts and treat all
Americans the same; give better treatment to lower-income Americans than higher-income Americans), thus suggesting the underlying sentiments are fairly stable.

So if the Republicans lack a mandate to repeal health reform or extend the Bush taxes, then what exactly might they have a mandate for? As it turns out, perhaps not that much. CNN actually also asked voters specifically about the question of whether the election results “represented a mandate for Republican policies”:http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/11/15/rel16a1.pdf. Here are the results, which even surprised me despite my skepticism on this manner:

* 17% interpreted the election as a mandate for Republican policies
* 70% interpreted the election as a rejection of Democratic policies
* 8% said neither
* 5% had no opinion

Now whether this will amount to anything is another questions. Interestingly, CNN reported on earlier surveys that revealed nearly identical numbers the last time the Republicans took the House in 1994 (18% mandate for Republicans, 60% rejection of Democrats) and very similar numbers when the Democrats took over the House in 2006 (27% mandate for Democrats, 64% rejection of Republicans). So perhaps there is something just inherent in the nature of the question (e.g., maybe more people are comfortable with the concept of rejecting policies than providing a mandate). Or perhaps it signifies a deeper desire on the part of the American public for neither party to go it alone. But combined with John’s post “last week”:https://themonkeycage.org/2010/11/do_democrats_understand_politi.html on the futility of Obama adopting Republican policies to chase independent voters, these three points (health care, taxes, and mandates generally) certainly suggest that there may be less to gain for Obama from giving in to Republican policy demands than may have originally met the eye.