A slate of polls harbors bad news for Democrats come November. First, a new ABC/WashPO survey found the President has an approval rating of 41%. More alarming is among registered voters he sports a 55% disapproval rating. While Democrats lead by one point on the generic ballot, 45%-44%, Republicans lead among the most likely voters, 49%-44%. The President is underwater on every major issue and contrary to Democratic hopes the public is warming up to Obamacare the survey finds only 44% support the law compared to 49%. When registered voters (not just most likely to vote) were asked who they wanted to control Congress, 53% said Republicans to be a check on the President. Only 37% said a Democratic Congress to end gridlock. Also, those against Healthcare Reform are twice as likely to say they are “definitely” against the law as “definitely” for the law.
The new NBC/WSJ survey finds the President slightly more popular at 44% approval to 50% disapproval. But in this survey only 36% support Obamacare and 46% are opposed. Again, those opposed are more passionate than those for the law. The President is underwater on the economy, foreign policy, Healthcare, you name it and the public disapproves.
These two surveys are bad enough news for Democrats. But a third survey among a key Democratic demographic, the young, finds Millennials just don’t find this election “sexy.” Among the 18-29 demographic the survey polled, only 24% said they were “definitely” likely to vote in the midterm. The survey’s findings show a 10% drop in interest in voting since last November. Even more worrisome for the party is that among partisan Millennials there is an intensity gap. Forty-four percent of Millennials who voted for Romney in 2012 say they are “definitely” likely to vote compared to just 35% of Obama backers. While the President does enjoy a 52% approval rating among the group compared to a 46% disapproval, much better than his overall numbers, that support is not translating to support for his party as his party enjoys a 40% (compared to 41% last year) approval rating among the young. The GOP saw a little boost and now has a 27% approval rating.
Beyond the common theme Democrats are in trouble this November and the President is likely to be a drag on the party, even among the young, is a new indication the economy is slowing down. It could not come at a worst time for Democrats. According to reports from the Commerce Department the economy grew at a .1% rate in the first quarter. This growth is far worse than the 1st quarter of 2013. Some analysts have attributed Obama’s victory in 2012 to the fact the economy was slowly recovering and the public was gaining in belief on that perception. Now, well, the report says it all.
Democrats always knew they would have a tough slog this cycle. The GOP is energized by opposition to the President and Obamacare. Further, the party is frustrated after Mitt Romney’s loss. But Democrats seem to have underestimated the scope of their turnout problem. This problem may not be reflected in individual Senate and gubernatorial polls in Southern states and even swing states such as Iowa and Michigan. Digging through the cross-tabs of these polls and one is likely to find an electorate similar to 2012 among the topline numbers. Dig just a little deeper however and one finds that the enthusiasm gap actually gives GOP candidates in Michigan, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina much better chances than a casual glance would suggest.
A number of predictive, analytic models give the GOP about a 50% chance of retaking the Senate. But according to some these models are based to heavily on individual polls that FAVOR Democrats. Josh Krauthammer at National Journal has some differing thoughts than these models and Democratic talking points. It is not all roses for the GOP however among his analysis. Republicans are weaker in the Michigan Senate race and Senator Mark Pryor could win his Senate race against all odds. That said, he finds GOP chances in Iowa, Virginia and Oregon to be respectful and Scott Brown in New Hampshire to not getting any “respect.”
Other analysts have said similar things. Stu Rothenburg at Roll Call has warned that GOP chances may be being underestimated because it is hard to gauge on the ground turnout efforts until the closing days of a campaign. Also, national waves may not show up in every poll, meaning that the party about to be crushed can always find a poll to cherrypick and use to argue their chances are better than they really are (see 2010).
The polls above obviously are not. But expect Democrats to spin the polls to argue that they can hold the Senate and they will gain Governorships and seats in the House. Democrats would be doing themselves no favors. The party is deeply invested in turning out its base which so far seems unexcited by efforts to raise the minimum wage, reform campaign finance and rehash the “war on women.” Unfortunately for the party this also seems to be turning off even left leaning Independents. Right leaning Independents in both the ABC and NBC survey said they were far more likely to vote than their counterparts.
It can be summed up thusly. If you are a Democrat you are praying by November the base has been excited somewhat and the public has less sour views on the economy and Healthcare (new growth numbers don’t suggest this hope is based in realism). If you are a Republican, November cannot come soon enough.