Straw Poll: Progressives Want Stronger Washington Agenda

Most progressives continue to support President Obama, but are split as to whether to elect Democrats or form an independent movement.

Although progressives overwhelmingly support President Obama’s American Jobs Act, most think that effort is too small — and they want a stronger  activist progressive agenda coming from Washington.  

Those are some of the results of a new straw poll of those attending this week’s progressive Take Back The American Dream conference, held in the nation’s capital.

Some 97 percent surveyed approved of the  president’s $447 billion jobs plan, although three-quarters think it’s actually not large enough, according to poll results announced Thursday by the polling organization, Democracy Corps.

Of the jobs proposals contained in the president’s legislation, participants believe funding for infrastructure projects like roads, bridges and airports will be the most effective at creating jobs (52 percent made that one of their top two choices). Nearly 40 percent believes that helping local governments avoid lay-offs of teachers, police officers and firefighters will be the most effective.

“Progressives are fired up and want the President to keep fighting for jobs,” says Robert Borosage, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future,  the organization which put on the progressive conference. “It’s clear that we want leaders who listen to the people and not to corporate lobbyists.”

Two-thirds of progressives want Obama to not compromise on his policy positions on the jobs bill and are eager to see the president stand up to the Republican-led House.  Indeed, the poll finds that progressive activists are united over deep concerns about Republican control of all branches of government.

Participants continue to support Obama personally: 72 percent approve of his performance as president and three-quarters give him a warm personal rating— down from when he took office but nearly unchanged since last year’s straw poll.

More than half of progressives polled embrace the idea of an independent progressive movement to challenge big money and conservative ideas in both parties, however.

Almost three years after the election which put Obama in the White House, progressives have been disappointed by the slow pace and lackluster results from a government they believe is “influenced by big money and conservative ideas.” Indeed, participants are divided on the key question as to the priority that should be given to re-electing the president and taking back the House versus building an independent movement.

When asked which candidate in the Republican field is most qualified to be president, nearly half of all participants selected Jon Huntsman, a former Utah governor and ex-ambassador to China in the earlier part of the Obama administration. Huntsman, however, has been overshadowed by others in the GOP race and has been locked into the lower tier of candidates.

Among survey respondents, 48 percent believe that electing Democrats must be a priority, while 52 percent give priority to building an independent movement – 42 percent who support building independently while recruiting progressive candidates and 10 percent who favor focusing on public education and mass demonstrations without an electoral strategy. In a separate question, about one-third say they would consider voting for a third party candidate.

The pollsters’ memo of results does not list the number of conference of attendees who took the survey, nor any kind of margin of error for the poll results.


Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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