These numbers (from a Pew Research poll conducted July 29 - August 1) shouldn't surprise anybody, but given what passes for conventional wisdom these days, they could very well be a shock:
If you look at the net impact of each hypothetical on a liklihood of support (in other words, subtracting the less likely number from the more likely number), you get, in order:
- Government projects: +39%
- Barack Obama: -1%
- Candidate is neither Dem nor GOP: -6%
- Tea party: -9%
- Sarah Palin: -20%
So it turns out that the tea party's austerity message is a lead balloon for the GOP. Instead, voters want somebody representing them who will deliver the goods for their district. Even among Republicans, voters are just as likely to support a candidate who delivers government projects and money to their district as one who has the backing of the tea party.
Moreover, it turns out the election really isn't about any one national figure, but if it were, it would be Sarah Palin that was a detriment -- not President Obama.
The more you see numbers like this, the clearer it becomes that vulnerable members of Congress shouldn't spend their time running from programs like the recovery act. Instead, they should be touting the benefits of what the stimulus has delivered to their districts. And they should be running on a platform of doing even more of it to get the economy going. As the numbers show, it's not a close call.