SOUTH PORTLAND – Scott Rasmussen has a sobering message for Republicans in the wake of their election victories last week.

“This is a fundamental rejection of both political parties,” said the pollster who founded Rasmussen Reports. “For the Republicans who are looking to celebrate, it’s really important for them to remember, they didn’t win. The other team lost.”

Voters’ cynicism remains high, he said. Just one day after the election, his polling indicated that:

59 percent of voters expect to be disappointed with the GOP before 2012.

72 percent of Republicans believe congressional Republicans are out of touch with their base.

Only 21 percent of Americans believe the government has the consent of the governed.

Those sentiments mean that neither party will be able to effect much change, at the state or federal level, he said.

Rasmussen was in South Portland on Wednesday to deliver the keynote address to about 340 people at the Maine Heritage Foundation’s eighth annual Freedom and Opportunity Luncheon. Rasmussen met with reporters before the event.

In Maine last week, Republicans gained control of the governor’s office and both chambers of the Legislature.

The party’s advances in the Legislature were part of a larger trend, in which the GOP nationally gained about 680 state legislative seats — the largest such gain in modern history, according to Rasmussen.

Rasmussen advised the new majority to be a little humble in its approach to policy early on, and take time to explain its aims. Gov.-elect Paul LePage, who won with 38 percent of the vote, will have to take a leadership role in that area, Rasmussen said.

“He’s going to have to very consciously be a governor who reaches beyond his base,” he said.

Moderate Republicans like U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine are vulnerable because of voters’ frustration, the pollster said. He also pointed to the increasingly ideological nature of both major parties, which are demanding purity among their members.

Rasmussen said the tea party movement became a defining voice of the election, but it’s not clear where its near-term future lies. If either political party can connect with the tea party, the movement and the party could benefit, he said.

If both parties ignore it, he predicted the tea party will be louder and angrier in 2012. He expects that over the course of the decade, the tea party will have the same fate as the Progressive Movement a century ago, as the ideas change politics but the movement itself fizzles.

Rasmussen called the tea party an authentic grass-roots movement whose strength came from its ability to articulate ideas supported by most voters. His polling indicates that 22 percent of voters consider themselves part of the movement and 51 percent feel it is good for the country.

Most people who identify with the movement agree on cutting government spending and feel their voices aren’t heard in Washington, D.C., or state capitals.

Rasmussen said the gap between the political class and mainstream voters is bigger than the one between Republicans and Democrats.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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