Voters Say 2012 Race Was More Negative Than Past Votes

Voters said the just-concluded U.S. election was more negative and less focused on issues than previous campaigns, and they don’t expect a change in Washington’s partisan bickering, according to a poll released today.

In the survey by the Pew Research Center, 68 percent of voters said the political faceoff between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney was more negative than usual, and 51 percent said there was less discussion of policy than usual.

Advertising data underscore the campaign’s nasty tone -- 87 percent of the 1,233,522 presidential campaign commercials on television were negative, according to New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG.

A 2008 poll by Washington-based Pew showed 54 percent said that year’s presidential race between Obama and Republican John McCain was more negative than usual, even as 57 percent said it was marked by a greater discussion of the issues than usual.

Voters in the new poll gave Obama a grade of C+ for his 2012 campaign, down from B+ in 2008. Romney received a grade of C; McCain was given a C+ four years ago.

Political Cooperation

Obama was urged to work with the Republican congressional leadership by 72 percent in the new poll, and 67 percent said those leaders should work with the president. Still, a partisan divide emerged on this question: 54 percent of Democrats said Obama should work with the other party, while 50 percent of Republicans said their leaders should stand up to the president.

Republicans retained control of the House in the Nov. 6 election, and the party, though the minority in the Senate, has enough members to block votes by that chamber on various issues.

The Pew poll showed that 52 percent expect relations between Democrats and Republicans in Washington to remain the same, with 31 percent saying they anticipate improvement and 14 percent saying the situation will worsen.

An immediate conflict facing the two sides concerns Obama’s push to extend tax cuts for the first $200,000 of annual income for individuals and $250,000 for married couples, while allowing rates to rise for those who make more.

If Congress doesn’t act by the end of this year, $607 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax increases are scheduled to take effect starting in January. Taxes on ordinary income, capital gains, dividends and estates will increase, pushing the top tax rate to 39.6 percent from 35 percent.

Pew’s telephone poll of 1,206 voters was conducted Nov. 8- 11 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. The subgroups of 442 Democrats and 343 Republicans have margins of error of plus or minus 5.7 and 6.5 points, respectively.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at

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