Particularly in contested Republican districts, voters saw big differences between the parties on the issues, especially on the war in Iraq and on taxes. They clearly voted for a change in course in Iraq and for legislators willing to take on corporate lobbies that are driving up the costs of gas and health care. They rejected the president's argument to stay the course either in Iraq or on the economy.
"This election marks the end of one-party misrule in Washington," said Campaign for America's Future co-director Robert Borosage. "Voters are looking for a change in course in Iraq. And they're looking for legislators who will put government on their side, challenge entrenched corporate lobbies and policies and change an economy that doesn't work for them. This marks the end of a conservative era that has been mugged by a reality that it got wrong. Now the struggle begins for what comes next."
The survey found that voters rejected the signature initiatives of this conservative administration such as the Iraq war, privatization of Social Security and trickle-down economics. Americans are increasingly turning against basic conservative ideological doctrine.
"The conservative political world crystallized by Bush has crashed," said the poll's author, Stan Greenberg. "The image of the Republican party is at the lowest point in the history of polling."
The poll found that the public holds progressive values on many economic issues. In contested districts, voters favor multilateralism in our foreign policy over a reliance on our own military force by 20 percent. By a margin of 17 percent, they consider government regulation more helpful than harmful. By a margin of 23 percent, voters opt for furthering community over individualism. And by two to one, they want government to protect jobs with fair trade policies and to take the lead in moving us towards alternative energy, rather than relying on private investors to make the choices.
Voters' growing concerns about the Iraq war and economic issues were reflected in the election cycle's evolving campaign ads. A new Campaign for America's Future study of eleven contested races five for the U.S. House of Representatives, four for the U.S. Senate and two for governor found that the largest sums of campaign advertising were spent on economic ads that featured remarkably populist messages. The cost of corruption candidates voting in favor of the interests of corporate lobbies and donors rather than working families attracted the most combined ad money.
"The signature race of this election was Sherrod Brown versus Mike DeWine," said Borosage. "A socially liberal candidate beat a McCain Republican by emphasizing populist economic issues."
Democrats featured remarkably populist attacks on Republicans catering to corporate interests Big Oil and Big Pharma and what this cost voters in higher prices, and jobs getting shipped overseas. More money was spent on ads depicting Big Oil and Big Pharma as threats than on ads warning of Osama bin Laden. Remarkably, little advertising money was spent on social issues.
In the 11 targeted races examined, Democrats spent a total of $19,854,007 on television ads focusing on campaign contributions and corruption, and Republicans spent $16,037,972. While Republicans have traditionally emphasized moral values and crime in their ads, they spent only $2,364,216 and $5,472,338 respectively on those issues in the races examined by the Campaign for America's Future.
NOTE: An electronic copy of the Campaign for America's Future's post-election poll and ad report are available at www.ourfuture.org.