October 7, 2010 — Twenty-six days out from the 2010 midterm elections, Peter D. Hart looked at whether Democrats should expect a “Category 3 or 5 Hurricane.” The chairman of Peter D. Hart Research Associates and one of the leading U.S. analysts of public opinion survey research spoke at a Shorenstein Center event co-sponsored with the Institute of Politics.
Hart opened by suggesting that Democrats should expect “something more like Katrina” than Hurricane Earl. Presenting a long list of statistics, Hart showed a picture of America where 59% of the country “believes it’s on the wrong track,” and where confidence is high in the military but low in other institutions, such as Congress, the financial industry and the health insurance industry.
As for President Obama’s approval rating, Hart said that 49% of the country disapproves of his job performance. “The problems are with the independents in the middle” who disapprove of the president, Hart said. However, he believes that the “voters haven’t turned against [Obama], and there is still a sense of more good will than negative.”
Hart labeled 2010 as the “year of the Tea Party.” Twenty-eight percent of the electorate are Tea Party supporters, and 18% agree with the party’s efforts, Hart stated. Of the GOP primary voters, 51% were Tea Party supporters. The impact of the Tea Party, Hart explained, is displayed in voter mobilization: 74% are highly motivated to vote.
Speculating on the outcome of the midterm elections, Hart said that he believes the Democrats will hold the Senate, but the Republicans will take a majority in the House. When asked his thoughts about the 2012 election, Hart said that it’s “too early.” Yet he believes that “Republicans will pay the price for the Tea Party in 2012,” and it will “skew how they approach their electorate.”
This article was written by Janell Sims and the photos taken by Leighton Walter Kille, both of the Shorenstein Center.