Voters Favor Presidential Candidates Who Would be Responsive to the People

Voters have a far more favorable view of presidential candidates who they think “would listen to and be influenced by the views of the American people as a whole,”  but none of the current presidential candidates are seen as responsive as voters would like, according to a recent survey by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC) of the University of Maryland (which does not take positions on the candidates) and released today by the nonpartisan group Voice of the People.

Asked how much elected officials should listen to and be influenced by the views of the people they represent, on a scale of 0 to 10, the average response is 8.8 (Republicans 8.8, Democrats 8.9).

When Democrats evaluate Democratic presidential candidates on the same scale none of them reach this level.  Elizabeth Warren gets the highest average rating at 7.2, followed by Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders at 6.9, Pete Buttigieg at 6.6, Kamala Harris at 6.5.

Most significant, perceptions of the level of responsiveness is highly related to how favorably voters view each candidate.  Among those who give each Democratic candidates a rating of 5 or less, majorities in every case say they have an unfavorable view of the candidate.  When candidates elicit a rating of 7 or more, very large majorities have a favorable view of them.  It is only when they get a rating of 9 that any candidate gets a very favorable majority.

Republican voters are a bit more forgiving when it comes to President Trump.  They give him an average rating of 7.3 and even among those who rate his responsiveness as 5, a large majority still approves of his performance. Only when his rating reaches

Turning to the electorate as a whole (and the implications for the general election), no presidential candidate gets an average rating of 5 or more from the full sample of voters.  Biden does the best at 4.8, followed by Warren at 4.6, Sanders 4.5, Buttigieg 4.3, and Harris 4.0.  Trump is rated at 4.1.  All of them fall well short of the 8.8 level voters say they want.

Steven Kull, director of PPC, comments, “Clearly all of the candidates have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to convincing voters that they will listen to and be influenced by the people as a whole.  These data suggest there may be substantial rewards for those who do.”

Respondents were also questioned about Members of Congress overall and their own Congressional representative in the House of Representatives in terms of how much they listen to and are influenced by the views of the people they represent.  Members of Congress overall receive an average rating of 4.0 – well short of the desired level of 8.8. Respondents’ own representative do only slightly better with a rating of 5.1.

There is also a clear relation between perceived responsiveness and whether voters feel their representative deserves to be re-elected.  Among those who receive a rating of 5 or less, majorities say they do not deserve to be re-elected.   With a score of 6, 60% say their representative deserves to be re-elected, rising to 71% with a score of 7, and 88% with a score of 8.

The surveys were conducted online from Sept. 19 – Oct. 1, 2019, and from Oct. 22 – 30, 2019 with a national probability-based sample of 2,410 and 2,417 registered voters, respectively.  The sample was provided by Nielsen Scarborough from its panel of respondents, who were recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The national samples had a margin of error of +/- 2.0%.

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