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Impact of the Financial Rescue Package in the Republican Battleground Districts
Friday, October 03 2008

Tags: battleground | campaign | democracy corps | Democrats | house | incumbents | Republican Party

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New research from Democracy Corps finds voters in GOP-held battleground districts conflicted about the financial rescue package. This survey of 1,600 likely voters in the 50 most competitive Republican-held Congressional districts shows that Democrats who support the rescue plan can hold their own against Republicans who oppose it, even in the Republican-leaning battleground.

With the House of Representatives joining the Senate today in passing the financial rescue package, Democracy Corps is releasing new research showing that voters are conflicted about the proposal. This is a difficult issue, particularly for members who support the bill and are worried about its electoral implications. But this new survey of 1,600 likely voters in the 50 most competitive Republican-held Congressional districts shows that Democrats who support the rescue plan can hold their own against a Republican who opposes it, even in a Republican-leaning battleground. By a 47 to 42 plurality, voters say they want their representative in Congress to support the 700 billion dollar plan to purchase troubled mortgage assets as modified by Congress to include limits on CEO pay and repay taxpayers in the long-term.

Perhaps more important, in an explicit partisan match-up pitting the named Democratic candidate versus the named Republican candidate in each district, the right Democratic message in support of the rescue plan defeats a Republican message against the rescue by the same 47 to 42 percent margin.

The winning Democratic message notes the need to turn the economy around and protect the middle class but mainly focuses on the improvements made by Congress to the Bush administration's original bill, including limits on CEO compensation and protections to ensure taxpayers are paid back when the economy rebounds. Voters strongly support Congress' proposals to improve Bush's plan - especially placing limits on CEO pay for companies that receive federal funding, providing stronger oversight of the rescue program and allowing qualified borrowers to refinance into more affordable mortgages. The two strongest messages in favor of the rescue plan center on the protections Congress added to ensure that much of the 700 billion dollars will be repaid to taxpayers and on the pain that average Americans will feel if the legislation is not enacted.

While rescue proponents can hold their own on the issue, the top messages in opposition to the bill test stronger than the best messages in favor. More significant, after a simulated debate support for the rescue drops to 44 percent while opposition increases to 48 percent. Importantly, the two strongest messages against the plan touch on the unfairness involved in American taxpayers who play by the rules having to bail out bad actors on Wall Street who did not. Moreover, when asked who was responsible for the current crisis, these voters placed the blame squarely on banks that gave out risky loans but also on people who took out loans they couldn't afford. Voters are angry that they have to bail out the people who got them into this mess and though we did not explicitly test such a message, this implies that proponents of the rescue plan could strengthen their message by acknowledging this anger and the underlying unfairness that causes it.