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Poll: Mass. Voters Protested Against Weak Wall Street, Health Care Policies

by Sam Stein and Ryan Grim

Massachusetts voters who backed Barack Obama in the presidential election one year ago and either switched support to Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown, or simply stayed home, said in a poll conducted after the election Tuesday night that if Democrats enact tougher policies on Wall Street, they'll be more likely to come back to the party in the next election.

A majority of Obama voters who switched to Brown said that "Democratic policies were doing more to help Wall Street than Main Street."

A full 95 percent said the economy was important or very important when it came to deciding their vote.

In a somewhat paradoxical finding, a plurality of voters who switched to the Republican -- 37 percent -- said that Democrats were not being "hard enough" in challenging Republican policies.

It would be hard to find a clearer indication, it seems, that Tuesday's vote was cast in protest.

The poll also upends the conventional understanding of health care's role in the election. A plurality of people who switched -- 48 -- and didn't vote -- 43 -- said that they opposed the Senate health care bill. But the poll dug deeper and asked people why they opposed it. Among Brown voters, 23 percent thought it went "too far" -- but 36 percent thought it didn't go far enough; 41 percent said they weren't sure why they opposed it.

For voters who stayed home and opposed health care, a full 53 percent said they opposed the Senate health care bill because it didn't go far enough; 39 percent weren't sure and only eight percent thought it didn't go far enough.

The firm Research 2000 conducted the post-election survey Tuesday night on behalf of three progressive organizations -- the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America and MoveOn.org.

The firm discovered that 18 percent of Obama backers who voted in the Senate race ended up casting ballots for Brown.

Taken from interviews of 500 Obama backers who voted in the Senate election and 500 Obama backers who sat out the election, the results suggest that supporters of the president are more committed to comprehensive health care legislation than to any particular political party -- although the willingness of public option proponents to support a Brown candidacy suggests that health care may in the end not have been a determining factor.

These numbers have to be a cause for concern among Democratic lawmakers skittish about the House of Representatives passing, pro forma, the Senate's version of reform. For those progressives demanding that the party use reconciliation to push from something larger than the Senate's bill, the survey provides something of a boost.

More details on the poll here.

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