More Parsing the Polls: Bad News for Congressional Republicans?
Earlier today The Fix examined four recently released national polls and what they revealed about President Bush's public standing. In short, Bush's numbers crept upward over the past month. But the ratings for Congress remained largely unchanged -- a worrisome sign for Republicans hoping to hold onto both chambers next fall.
Voters are decidedly unhappy with Congress. In the Diageo/Hotline poll, just 26 percent approved of the job Congress is doing and a measly two percent "strongly" approved. A whopping 64 percent disapproved.
The Washington Post-ABC News poll showed Congress faring slightly better with 43 percent approving of its work compared to 53 percent disapproving -- a six percent net gain from the Post's November survey. (37 percent approve/59 percent disapprove).
In the so-called generic ballot question, which asks voters to choose between an unnamed Democratic candidate and an unnamed Republican candidate, Democrats continued to carry a significant edge.
The Post-ABC poll showed Democrats with a nine-point edge on the generic ballot -- but that's down from a whopping 53-35 advantage in November. The Diageo/Hotline survey put Democrats' generic ballot edge at ten points.
Two caveats are necessary when considering the Democratic lead in the generic ballot. First, Democrats had historically high generic ballot leads in the summer of 2004 but were unable to capitalize and make major gains in the House last year.
Second, the generic ballot question is seen as an uneven predictor of which party will make electoral gains because of a built-in advantage for Democrats. Because Democrats still have more congressional districts heavily weighted for their party (i.e. districts where Democratic voters far outnumber GOP voters), those seats tend to skew the overall national results and make it difficult to decipher what the mood is among the 25-30 truly swing districts nationwide that will actually be in play next year. (I wrote about the generic ballot, its problems and its predictive abilities for Roll Call. Click here to read a free version of that story.)
Not all the news in recent polls was bad for Republicans. In the Post-ABC poll, 65 percent said they approved of the way their own member of Congress was handling his or her job, a statistic sure to be cited by House Republicans when countering Democrats' insistence that 2006 will be a watershed election.
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