Independent voters, who broke heavily for President Obama in the 2008 election, have swung dramatically in the other direction and are now deeply dissatisfied with his job performance, the country's direction and the overall state of American politics, a new poll finds.
A survey conducted for Independent Women's Voice, a nonprofit, center-right group, also shows Republicans well-positioned to pick up independent voters in the midterm elections on Nov. 2.
A total of 40% of independents planned to vote Republican, compared with 18% who said they would vote for a Democrat, according to the survey, part of which was conducted Sept. 15-16.
At the same time, independents are proving sympathetic to the "tea party" movement. A total of 45% said they had a favorable view of the tea party, compared with 35% with an unfavorable view.
The research was led by Douglas E. Schoen, who polled for former Democratic President Bill Clinton.
In a presentation on Monday, Schoen said he was struck by "how dramatic and clear these sentiments are."
In 2008, Obama won 52% of the independent vote, compared with 44% for the Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Now, 60% of independents disapprove of Obama's job performance, while 54% said that partisanship in Washington has grown since Obama was elected.
If there's any bright spot in the poll for Democrats, it's that independents are hardly smitten with Republicans. The poll found that 54% viewed Republicans unfavorably, compared with 39% who had a positive view of the GOP. Still, he said, the results are "very bad news for the Democrats."
Other findings include:
-- Seven out of 10 independents believe the country is on the wrong track, while nearly the same percentage believe the economy is moving in the wrong direction.
-- Thirty-eight percent of independents believe their personal financial situation will get worse in the next few years; just 29% believe it will get better.
-- Sixty-four percent believe the political process has gotten worse in the last few years, compared with 5% who believe it has improved.
The Democrats' policy choices have left independents disillusioned, the poll found.
A total of 81% said they were "concerned" with the federal government taking over the healthcare system. And nearly three-quarters said that when they consider who to support in the midterm elections, it is important that the candidate back a repeal of the new healthcare law signed by Obama earlier in the year.
"Healthcare was an unambiguous disaster for him," Schoen said. He added: "At each juncture, people said, 'Well, when people figure out the good news in the healthcare bill, it's going to turn around.' We've heard this time and time again."
He continued: "What independents are saying is, you're presenting an approach to government and a set of specific policies that we just disagree with. We're not comfortable with your approach, not comfortable with your polices and we just don't accept this.''