A recent poll – Governor Dannel Malloy has called it, dismissively, a survey – shows Republican gubernatorial prospect Tom Folly leading Mr. Malloy by nine points.
The poll by YouGov, a survey firm that has partnered with The New York Times and CBS News, is a bit different than the usual survey. Unlike the more traditional Quinnipiac poll, YouGov derives its nonpartisan data from an online panel of more than 100,000 respondents nationwide.
In Connecticut, the poll shows Republicans favoring Mr. Foley 81-5, while Democrats favor Malloy 72-12. But one of the most alarming takeaways from the poll is Mr. Foley’s 50 to 15 percent lead among Independents. That gap is huge, and unaffiliated voters in the state outnumber both Republicans and Democrats. These figures should alarm Democrats. Further, the majority of respondents said that they disapprove of Malloy’s performance as Governor.For some reason Independents have been driven in large numbers into the Foley camp. A 50 to 15 percent gap is a wide river to cross.
A more traditional poll also found Mr. Malloy trailing Mr. Foley among Independents. In the VoxPopuli poll, Mr. Foley led Mr. Malloy 36 to 24 percent among Independents.
Mr. Malloy has greeted these surveys with the usual unflappability of the politician left in the polling dust. Mr. Malloy said he was unconcerned with polls; his mind was focused like a laser on “doing the right thing,” even though his actions may adversely impact his electability. Such is the world-weary courage of the highly moral, goal driven politician.
What accounts for the Independent gap? Is it the coffee drunk by those who are likely to respond to internet inquiries? Has Mr. Malloy done anything in the last four years to alienate Independents – anything at all?
Who are the Independents anyway? Are they refugees, people nursing some secret wound who have been driven from the parties? Or are the Independents simply party averse, hearty Thoreauians each of whom considers himself “a party of one” and who does not wish to be drawn into the vortex of party politics? Have the Independents grown in number for much the same reasons those who used to belong to clubs and civic groups have dwindled in number? In Connecticut and national politics, Independents tend to be treated by decision makers in both parties as the crazy uncles in the attics: If we leave them in peace, we may lay a claim to their affections. Uncle Independent’s eccentricities have not been sufficiently explored by major universities. Most politicians would like to go a‘courting them, but they are all blind dates.
We know next to nothing about them – nothing, nothing, nothing. It makes a fella wonder: Why do we have political research facilities in universities at all?
Largely owing to the absence of hard, reliable data, we are left to speculate. But we in Connecticut may not speculate away this datum: There is something in the Independent that does not like a Malloy.
What could it be?
If we view the Independent as a sort of rebel with a cause, even though the cause remains indistinct – owing, once again, to lethargic political research universities – the polling figures would seem to suggest that the general population among Independents parallels that among the parties. Among Independents as a whole, Democratic defectors may outnumber Republican defectors by a margin of two to one. Independents are not born; they are made Independent. They leave or decline to join parties either because the parties have pushed them away or because they are party averse, reasoning, as did Groucho Marx on one occasion when a group solicited him for membership, that he would decline to associate with any party that would have him as a member.
If this analysis is even close to correct, the slip-sliding-away of Democrats to Independent ranks is likely to hurt Democrats twice as much as Republicans, a gap that cannot be backfilled with women who have yielded to propaganda reports that Republicans are making war upon them, or voters bewitched by spells cast upon them by politicians who have promised to radically change the nature of the nation and state (Where’s my magic wand?) or illegal aliens who, a decade hence, may be inclined to vote in favor of the party responsible for making borders disappear.
As the Democratic Party in Connecticut has become more and more progressive, it may have alienated, perhaps permanently, more and more Democratic centrists. Unwilling to join Republican Party ranks, the dissenters may be drifting into the Independent battalions. That is bad news for the party of William O’Neill and Ella Grasso, both centrist Democratic governors. And the worse news is that the defectors may be sufficiently irritated to vote in future elections for some Republicans from a sense of impotent resentment.
It’s a problem.
A more recent August 2 Public Policy Poll finds Independents disapproving of Mr. Malloy by mothan a 2-1 margin: Malloy only barely gets over 50% approval even with Democrats, at 52/33. Independents disapprove of him by a more than 2:1 margin, 25/53, and with Republicans he's at 15/73. Malloy would trail a hypothetical GOP opponent for reelection right now by a 46/39 margin.