Democrats have spent the past week attempting to put the best possible spin on the midterm elections they can find. Voters say they want us to work together, said both Harry Reid and Barack Obama, even though voters kicked Democrats out of office while leaving Republican incumbents firmly in place — even in Kansas, where Democrats thought they had pulled the wool over voters’ eyes with a transparently shabby bait-and-switch after the primary. Lowest turnout in decades, others argued, telling anyone who’d listen that Republicans had no mandate despite rolling to their largest Congressional win in decades, if not a century.
A Gallup poll conducted after the election produced something that looks rather dramatically like a mandate, though:
Following the midterm election that some have termed a Republican wave, the majority of Americans want the Republicans in Congress — rather than President Barack Obama — to have more influence over the direction the country takes in the coming year. This is a switch from early 2012 when a slim plurality, 46%, wanted Obama to prevail in steering the nation.
Republicans’ 17-percentage-point edge over Obama on this measure exceeds what they earned after the 2010 midterm, when Americans favored Republicans by an eight-point margin (49% to 41%). It also eclipses the nine-point advantage Republicans had over Bill Clinton following the 1994 midterm in which Republicans captured the majority of both houses.
Note that this poll was taken from November 6-9, starting the day after the spin began. Obama gave a televised speech on November 5th in which he argued that the election had nothing to do with him, and that he was listening to the two-thirds of voters who weren’t interested enough to turn out. That argument appears to have fallen flat with the electorate, even the two-thirds to whom Obama has pitched his ears.
This shows that the midterms were clearly a referendum on Obama and his leadership. Only 36% want the President to steer the policy agenda, which actually is lower than Gallup’s approval rating for Obama, 39/56, in almost the same polling period. That number has to be close to what an Obama polling floor would be, which means that Obama has lost all but the most loyal of his followers.
Even among Democrats, though, the polling doesn’t look good for Obama. Overall, almost twice as many say the country will be better off with the GOP in full charge of Congress (34%) than worse (19%), although a plurality say it won’t make any difference (44%). That is almost identical to the number of Democrats who say losing Congress won’t make a difference (43%), and 12% of them think the country will be better off with GOP leadership on Capitol Hill. Ouch.
That’s not the only indicator of trouble for Democrats. In a separate Gallup poll, their party has dropped to its lowest favorable rating in 22 years of surveying — and now trail the GOP by six points:
After the midterm elections that saw the Democratic Party suffer significant losses in Congress, a record-low 36% of Americans say they have a favorable opinion of the party, down six percentage points from before the elections. The Republican Party’s favorable rating, at 42%, is essentially unchanged from 40%. This marks the first time since September 2011 that the Republican Party has had a higher favorability rating than the Democratic Party. …
The descent in Democrats’ ratings caps a wild political ride for both parties over the past two years. After President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012, the Democratic Party’s favorable rating spiked to 51%, the first time either party had enjoyed majority support since 2009. However, after the post-election glow wore off, the party’s image settled back down near the 45% average for the Obama presidency. Meanwhile, Americans’ favorable ratings of the Republican Party collapsed to 28% during the fall 2013 federal government shutdown, the lowest such rating for either party since Gallup first asked the question in 1992.
That’s a lesson for the new Republican majority in Congress. Voters want leadership and a real agenda more than they want stunts. But the overall picture for Democrats looks exceedingly bleak for the next two years, and possibly beyond — and it will look even worse the longer their party’s leaders remain in denial over the resounding rebuke they received last week.