Independents Who Backed Obama Shifting Support to Republicans, Poll Shows

Independent voters who helped elect President Barack Obama in 2008 and give Democrats control of Congress have shifted their support to Republicans, a new poll shows.

Independents who are likely to vote say they prefer Republican candidates over Democrats in the Nov. 2 elections to determine control of Congress by a margin of 49 percent to 36 percent, according to the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

“For the third national election in a row, independent voters may be poised to vote out the party in power,” Andrew Kohut, Pew Research Center president, said in a statement. “Political independents now favor Republican candidates by about as large a margin as they backed Barack Obama in 2008 and congressional Democratic candidates four years ago.”

Likely voters overall favor Republican candidates by a 50 percent to 43 percent margin. When the sample is widened to registered voters the race is even.

The poll shows that independent voters, especially those who plan to vote for a Republican, are also more engaged in this year’s election than in previous midterm races. Sixty-four percent of independents who plan to vote Republican say they are giving a lot of thought to this election, compared with 40 percent who plan to vote for the Democrat.

Obama’s 2008 Advantage

Exit polls showed Obama with an 8 percentage point advantage among independents in 2008, and Democrats had an 18- point advantage with independents in 2006, the Pew survey said.

On the issue of reducing the federal budget deficit, independent voters favor Republicans by a margin of 44 percent to 29 percent. These voters also prefer Republicans on the economy and foreign policy.

Independents favor Democrats on social issues by a margin of 39 percent to 33 percent. They also say the Democratic Party is more concerned with their needs than are Republicans by a margin of 49 percent to 32 percent.

The two parties come in about equal on the question of which can bring about change the country needs.

The poll of 2,816 registered voters, of whom 2,053 are likely voters, was conducted Aug. 25 to Sept. 6. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points for registered voters and 3 percent for likely voters. The sample of likely independent voters is 734 and has an error margin of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

To contact the reporters on this story: Catherine Dodge in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at

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