Poll: GOP lead in generic ballot still growing despite ObamaCare website improvements

I think Conn Carroll’s got the right takeaway here. The news isn’t that the GOP’s leading on the generic ballot; that’s been true in several polls since November, when the botched ObamaCare rollout dropped an atomic bomb on Democratic numbers so powerful that even veteran number-crunchers like Charlie Cook trembled at its glory. The news is that the comparative stability of Healthcare.gov over the past month hasn’t healed those Democratic wounds, which suggests two possibilities. Maybe, as more people rushed to sign up before the deadline, more of them saw for themselves just how irritating using the website is. It might not be 404ing, but the combination of virtual queuing and rate shock from the premiums listed on the site might be souring formerly ignorant members of the public on the process. Or maybe it has little to do with the website; maybe the cumulative effect of news stories about cancellations, arbitrary deadlines being arbitrarily moved at the last second, and vast uncertainty about whether new coverage will be in place on January 1st has taken its toll.

The two aren’t mutually exclusive, of course.

Two months ago, Democrats held a 50%-42% advantage among registered voters in a generic ballot, which asked respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates. That result came after congressional Republicans appeared to overplay their hand in the bitter fight over the federal government shutdown and the debt ceiling.

But the Democratic lead evaporated, and a CNN poll a month ago indicated the GOP holding a 49%-47% lead. The new survey, conducted in mid-December, indicates Republicans with a 49%-44% edge over the Democrats…

“Virtually all the movement toward the GOP has come among men,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. “Fifty-four percent of female voters chose the Democratic candidate in October; 53% pick the Dem now. But among male voters, support for Democratic candidates has gone from 46% in October to just 35% now.”…

Another GOP advantage is the President’s standing with the public: 55% of registered voters say that they are more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who opposes the President than one who supports him and four in 10 say they are likely to vote for a candidate who supports Obama.

That gender gap, with women holding steady for Democrats, is fascinating given that CNN is also seeing support for ObamaCare sliding among women, not men. (Their pollster’s not the only one who’s noticed that, either.) That’s a bright spot for Democrats in an otherwise bleak poll — even as some women grow disaffected with O-Care, they’re not so disaffected that they’re willing to switch to the GOP. Yet.

One other reason that this poll might be significant: After the White House declared Healthcare.gov fixed, Obama’s job approval started to recover a bit. Follow RCP’s tracker from November to December and you’ll see what I mean. Lots of net disapproval in the mid-teens, and then suddenly there’s a stretch of six polls after December 1st where four have O at -10 or better. I thought at the time that that meant the worst was behind him and he’d soon settle back into a more traditional 46/53 approval rating. But maybe not. Check out what happens to his average job approval rating in December after it initially shrunk in response to the big Healthcare.gov repair job:


Something similar happens in RCP’s average of generic-ballot polling. The GOP soars in November only to deflate after Healthcare.gov is declared healed — and then begins to climb again in December:


What about average support for ObamaCare itself? Not quite the same effect here, but similar: Bigggg uptick in disapproval in November followed by the post-repair crash, and now, instead of disapproval climbing again, we see it leveling off:


There’s a late uptick there too but it doesn’t track with the monthlong climb in the two other poll averages above. So what’s going on? Three obvious possibilities. One: The relatively cheery early December numbers for O and the Democrats were just a bounce created by the “we fixed it!” announcement. Life goes on and the bounce fades. The new normal may not be the depths that Dems saw in November, but it ain’t their pre-ObamaCare numbers either. Two: CNN’s poll is an outlier, nothing more. Click the last link above and you’ll see why that might be true. Most polls have net disapproval of O-Care in the mid-teens; CNN has it at … -27. If they’re way off on that, they might be way off on the generic ballot too. Three: Maybe public opinion on O-Care has settled a bit (at least until the next round of horror stories about shrinking provider networks) but opinion on O himself and his enablers in the Senate is still deteriorating. Voters have absorbed a lot of news about presidential dishonesty and gross incompetence lately. Even if they learn to tolerate the health-care law, they may never see O the same way again. That would explain why the law’s numbers have leveled off but O’s really haven’t. In fact, just as I’m writing this, Gallup has posted its latest job approval average for Obama: 39/54, which ties the worst numbers of his presidency to date. Hopenchange is over, even if the Obama presidency crawls on.