Sept. 3 (Bloomberg) -- For Democratic and Republican convention delegates, there is no color purple. There’s only deep blue and deep red.
Among Democrats, 99 percent called President Barack Obama’s rescue of the auto industry a success, while nine in 10 Republicans said it was mistake. Ninety-three percent of Democrats say punish Wall Street more, while 62 percent of Republicans say that’s wrong.
And on the overriding issue of the federal deficit, it’s easy to see why consensus is difficult. Six in 10 true-blue Democratic delegates would raise taxes, especially on the wealthy, and cut defense spending. The Republicans, traditionally described with the color red, want Mitt Romney to do the opposite: Cut domestic spending, squeeze Medicare and Social Security, and block higher taxes.
The findings of the Bloomberg News survey of swing-state delegates not only reflect deep divisions nationwide, but help explain this year’s presidential campaign tactics. With polls showing fewer than 10 percent of voters undecided, Obama and Romney must embrace sometimes polar-opposite policies as they compete to send bigger numbers of loyalists to the polls.
At last week’s Republican convention, “most of their message was to rallying the troops and getting them fired up,” said David Redlawsk, a political science professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. “My expectation is the Democrats will do the same.”
The differences between the parties were starkly clear in the Bloomberg survey.
Two-thirds of the delegates surveyed before this week’s Democratic convention say insufficient tax revenue is the primary cause of the long-term federal deficit, a view held by just 1 percent of Republicans. More than 9 of 10 Republicans pick entitlements, such as Medicare and Social Security, as the biggest driver, compared to just 5 percent of Democratic delegates.
On the federal rescue of General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, Republican presidential nominee Romney has said he would have let the companies go bankrupt instead, although he’s also taken credit for recommending a version of the restructuring that helped turn the companies around. Obama has campaigned on the industry’s turnaround.
“There was no alternative,” Democratic delegate Erin Sievert, 32, a title company closing officer from Waterloo, Wisconsin, said in a follow-up interview. “It was either bail them out, or an end to the American auto industry.”
April Riggins, 57, a Republican delegate and interior designer from Scottsdale, Arizona, said she opposed Obama’s action because she worries it just helped subsidize companies that are moving jobs outside the U.S.
“I don’t see that there’s been positive improvement,” she said of the sector’s long-term employment picture.
Democratic and Republican delegates’ views are nearly as dramatically different when it comes to the Federal Reserve and whether the central bank should maintain its independence.
Eight in 10 Democratic delegates said the Fed’s independence is a good thing because it protects monetary policy from political pressures, a view held by just 37 percent of Republican delegates.
“Congressional oversight tends to be temporal,” said Mike Coleman, 60, a retired automotive executive and Democratic delegate from Boca Raton, Florida. “To have a stable currency, you need to be a little bit divorced from the whims of elections every two years.”
Democratic delegates are also much more positive than their Republican counterparts about the performance of the Fed since the 2008 financial crisis. Almost five in 10 Democrats rate its performance as good or excellent, compared to just 6 percent of Republicans.
Virtually all of the Democratic delegates surveyed -- 93 percent -- say not enough has been done to hold Wall Street responsible for its role in precipitating the financial crisis, something of an indictment of their party’s leadership. Fewer than four in 10 of the Republican delegates hold that view, with the majority -- 62 percent -- saying that more punishment would discourage banks from lending and hurt the economy.
“They basically were given free rein on everything and they got greedy and overconfident and that’s one of the main reasons we fell into the extreme recession we did,” said Chris Petersen, 57, a Democratic delegate, farmer and business consultant from Clear Lake, Iowa. “They need to have oversight and be regulated with a microscope because their past history is not very good.”
Trade with China is one area where delegates from the two parties are more in agreement. Asked whether the next president should impose trade and currency sanctions on China, even if it risks a global trade war, 46 percent of Democrats said yes, a view held by 57 percent of Republicans.
The survey interviewed delegates from Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. On the Democratic side, where state delegations are larger, 284 delegates participated. Among Republicans, there were 158 participants.
The national conventions draw the most active of the activists from both parties, meaning their views tend to be more extreme, Redlawsk said.
“There are very dramatic differences between two different versions of what makes a good society and successful country,” he said. “The parties are more clearly ideologically defined than they have been in a long time.”
-- Editors: Steven Komarow, Michael Shepard
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