November 14, 1995

Energized Democrats Backing Clinton

Voter Anxiety Dividing GOP

Introduction and Summary

Anxiety may replace anger as the dominant voter emotion in 1996. A major national survey finds significantly more Americans than 18 months ago worried about affording major expenses such as health care costs, college tuition, retirement funds and housing costs. Voter anxiety has increased across the political spectrum and appears to be dividing the Republican coalition and turning off Independents. At the same time, Democratic groups are uniting in opposition to GOP policies and are more politically energized.

Times Mirror’s voter typology finds greater support for Bill Clinton’s job performance among Democratic groups than support for GOP policies among Republican groups. More than seven-in-ten voters classified as left of center approve of the President’s performance. On the conservative side, strong support for the policies of GOP leaders is only found among “free market” Enterprisers (79% approve). However, among socially conservative Moralists, just 66% express approval, and even fewer (56%) of Libertarians voice support for the policies of the Republican leaders. Two swing voting groups, the economically anxious New Economy Independents and The Embittered, mostly approve of Bill Clinton’s performance and overwhelmingly disapprove of GOP policies.

Voter worries about affording major expenses appear to be playing an important role in the rising political fortunes of Bill Clinton and the sagging popularity of Republican policies. The percentage of Americans very worried that they cannot afford health care costs rose from 50% in March of 1994 to 66% in the current survey. Similarly, the survey found increased worries about saving enough money to retire (42% to 48%), paying for college tuition (37% to 44%), losing a job or taking a pay cut (28% to 34%), and being able to own or afford to keep a home (31% to 38%).

On balance, more Democrats and Independents are worried about all of these things than Republicans, but the “bigger tent” GOP now counts within its ranks a greater percentage of middle class people who are very concerned about their financial future. Most dramatically, while only 36% of Enterpriser Republicans are very worried about being able to afford health care, fully 64% of Moralists are. The same pattern is evident for most other major financial matters. For example, the adequacy of retirement funds is a worry for just 29% of Enterprisers but 50% of Moralists.

The political consequence of these concerns also emerges clearly in the survey. As shown in the table below, Republicans who are anxious about paying health care costs are significantly less likely to approve of GOP policies than are Republicans who are not so worried about these expenses. At the same time, worried Independents are much more apt to think well of Bill Clinton and disapprove of Republican ideas than are Independents who are less anxious about paying their health care bills.