- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

A constant undercurrent in the press since the November elections is that Republicans, now in charge of the White House and Congress, will squander their new found power by over reaching, promoting policies out of step with mainstream America. Despite this drumbeat, the real risk facing the GOP is that it will do too little.
That is, perhaps, the most significant finding of the American Survey, a nationwide survey of 600 people who voted in the November elections. The survey, conducted in early January, asked voters about their expectations for the new Congress.
First, there is a real appetite for change among the voters. For example, when asked to calibrate the amount of change needed in federal programs in general, almost two-thirds (65 percent) indicated that federal policies and programs either needed significant changes or needed to be completely overhauled.
Second, when asked a sequence of questions about whether the Republicans would bring too much, too little or just the right amount of change, respondents thought that the Republicans would bring too little change in most major policy areas. The responses varied slightly among demographic groups, but the message is clear: The fear seems to be that the Republicans will "under reach" as opposed to go too far.
For example, this attitude is most clearly seen in Social Security. American voters clearly believe the status quo with respect to Social Security is no longer acceptable. When asked, only 11 percent of respondents identified the status quo as acceptable. Only 9 percent of liberals, only 8 percent of females and just 4 percent of those under age 35 thought the status quo was fine. In contrast, 61 percent of all respondents said the system needed either "pretty substantial reform" or to be "totally overhauled." This desire for substantial change or complete overhaul was consistent among liberals (57 percent) and moderates (59 percent).
Finally, voters are fully aware of the Washington game. When asked what the most likely outcome of this Congress would be, a majority (51 percent) said Democrats and the media would accuse Republicans of doing too much. Just 11 percent said Republicans would actually do too much. Even the liberals get the joke 26 percent said Democrats and the media would claim excess.

Gary J. Andres is a senior managing partner with the Dutko Group and a former White House senior lobbyist. His column appears on Thursdays. Michael McKenna is co-founder of Andres-McKenna Research and a vice president at theDutkoGroup.E-mail: [email protected]

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