U.S. voters find Democrats just as extreme as Republicans and out of touch on Americans’ values and priorities, according to a new poll from the centrist think tank Third Way ahead of Tuesday’s midterms.
“If Democrats manage to hold on to the House and Senate, it will be in spite of the party brand, not because of it,” reads the Third Way memo.
“Ultimately, there is no way for Democrats to build and maintain winning coalitions without repairing their damaged brand, even in an era where Republican candidates are increasingly extreme and women’s fundamental rights are on the ballot,” it adds.
Voters think both parties have gotten more extreme in recent years, with 59 percent of likely voters in the survey saying that of Republicans and Democrats. Fifty-five percent of voters describe Democrats as “too extreme,” 1 point ahead of Republicans at 54 percent.
Asked to plot their ideological leanings on a 10-point scale, voters put themselves at an average of 5.6 on the right-leaning side of the scale.
Assigning the parties to a point on a 10-point scale, voters put Democrats in Congress at an average of 2.6 points away from the average voter, or a score of 3 on the scale. Republicans in Congress, on the other hand, were on average just 1.7 points away, or a score of 7.3 on the scale.
Voters’ moderate self-identification may contribute to polling that indicates Americans are pulling away from their party leaders and suggests an intensely tight race for congressional control in the upcoming midterms. The Third Way poll found that 46 percent of swing voters thought neither party had nominated more moderate candidates for Congress this year.
Democrats are ahead on issues at the bottom of voters’ priority lists, such as abortion and climate change, but behind on top-priority issues, such as Inflation and the economy or immigration and the border.
Notably, voters also seem skeptical about Democrats’ ability to effect change. For example, more voters trust Democrats than Republicans to fund education — 52 percent to 33 percent — but Democrats are 1 point behind on actually on improving the education system, 43 percent to 44.
Democrats are also struggling to keep up on some “core American values.”
Republicans have a 10-point lead in voters’ perception of the party’s patriotism, 56 to 46 percent, and a 15-point lead on valuing hard work, 58 percent to 43 percent.
Voters generally reported thinking Republicans better prioritize the issues they care about — 45 percent to 41 — and share their values, at 45 percent to 43 percent, while they think Democrats look down on people like them more than Republicans do, 46 percent to 44 percent.
Democrats get ahead on whether they look out for the middle class, with a 44 percent to 41 percent edge.
At the same time, voters in the survey saw this year’s slate of Republican candidates as more extreme than the Democrats, by 44 percent to 37.
“The generic ballot leading up to the midterms is tight, and it’s anyone’s guess what the final House and Senate margins will be. But in the long-term, Democrats must face up to the challenge of convincing voters that they are the reasonable, mainstream, and competent party to preserve themselves as a palatable alternative to Republicans’ increasing extremism,” reads the Third Way report.
“If Democrats cannot shift the party brand ahead of 2024, democracy itself will be at stake,” it adds.
The Third Way poll was conducted from Oct. 21 to Oct. 28 and surveyed 800 likely voters nationwide, including 200 swing voters, with a confidence interval of 3.5 percentage points.