Stand your ground or compromise? Tis the question always asked by politicians. Wall Street Journal political columnist Gerald Sieb reported a substantial increase across the board in the number of voters who favored compromise in a poll conducted by the newspaper. Mr. Seib wrote:
In talking with people about the dysfunction in Washington in recent years, one simple question almost inevitably arose: What will it take to end the gridlock? The succinct answer has been equally simple: When voters start punishing rather than rewarding politicians for perpetuating gridlock, behavior will change.
Now it’s possible to add this tantalizing thought: Perhaps this will be the year when that at least starts to change.
Until now, the simple fact is that Americans have complained a lot about gridlock, while essentially voting over and over again to continue it. Politicians who have blocked compromises in Washington have been rewarded consistently at the polls by partisans of both sides. Meanwhile, those who broke party orthodoxy found themselves savaged from within in vicious primary-election fights that have left some lying dead at the side of the road.
Politicians are only human, so they got the message: Voters say they want people to “come together” in Washington, but in truth they punish those who try to do that while rewarding those who eschew compromise.
So why think this year is any different? One big hint comes in a question deep inside the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
Voters were asked whether this year they would prefer a candidate “who will make compromises to gain consensus on legislation,” or a candidate who sticks to his position “even if this means not being able to gain consensus on legislation.”
Precisely 50% said they would pick the candidate who favored compromises to gain consensus, surpassing the 42% who said they would prefer the candidate who sticks to his or her positions.
That may not seem like much of a shout-out for compromise and consensus, except that it represents a stark reversal from just four years ago. Then, a clear majority, 57%, said they preferred candidates who stuck to positions, while just 34% opted for those who would compromise. Do the math: That’s a 23-point advantage for opposing compromise four years ago, compared with an eight-point edge in favor of it now. A 31-point swing is a significant movement. Beyond that reading, voters rated breaking gridlock in Washington as the second-most-important issue on which they would vote next month, right behind job creation and economic growth.
A lot of the pro-compromise sentiment shows up among Democrats, who think Republicans have stiffed their president, Barack Obama , and want that to change. But they aren’t alone. Even among Republicans, the share saying they favor a candidate who will compromise has risen 13 percentage points since 2010, the year of the midterm in which the GOP took back control of the House.
In fact, the desire for compromise over sticking to positions has gone up among every conceivable subgroup: 16 points among conservatives, 15 points among moderates, 16 among men, 15 among women. Yearning for candidates backing compromise has risen by 18 points among independent voters, who tend to decide elections, but also among those who voted for Mitt Romney for president.
Of course, answering a poll question is one thing, and actually acting on that sentiment in the voting booth is another. On that score, there are a few inklings of change.
For starters, tea-party candidates, whose calling card is resistance to compromise, didn’t do nearly as well in primaries this year as in the previous two election cycles. But the most powerful evidence may lie in the prominence of independent and libertarian candidates—the ultimate vessels for carrying unhappiness with the way established politicians are acting..... Rest of article
The poll results are not a surprise and a predictable reaction to the current state of national politics. Voters favored standing on principles after 8 years of Clinton triangulation. The voters had the attitude after 8 years of Bush that they wanted things fixed. After several years of an ideologically rigid President and opponents going at it, they are probably reacting again. The pendulum swings yet again.