History tends to repeat itself, and if this truism continues next month the Democrats may be in more trouble than they thought. Gallup has released their fifth biennial survey of voters, asking if they plan to “send a message to the President” with their vote, even though he is not on the ballot. The results look very similar to two other midterm contests in recent memory.
PRINCETON, NJ — Registered voters are more likely to view their choice of candidate in this year’s midterm elections as a message of opposition (32%) rather than support (20%) for President Barack Obama. That 12-percentage-point margin is similar to what Gallup measured for Obama in 2010 and George W. Bush in 2006, years in which their parties performed poorly in the midterm elections.
While it sounds like a rather obscure question to put to the layman, their track record indicates that this one is actually a fairly prognostic marker. These numbers are right in line with Bush in his sixth year (where the Democrats swept both houses) and Obama’s first midterm in 2010, which was nothing short of a tidal wave for the GOP. It also tracks with the sitting President’s popularity in each case. When the numbers are flipped the other way, such as Bush in 2002, the party controlling the White House held steady or made gains, which seems a bit easier for a president two years in than after the six year itch begins to manifest.
The other interesting nugget in the history of this survey is Bill Clinton in 1998. Not only was he at the six year mark – where people should have been tired of him – but the GOP was in the process of trying to impeach him. The guy was such a master of self-marketing, however, that his popularity remained in the 60s and the GOP wound up losing a net five seats in the House and barely holding on to what they had in the Senate.
Less than a month out from election day, these aren’t the kind of numbers the DNC wanted to see. Once the dust settles in November and we do our postmortem on the races, it should be interesting to see how well this round of data matches up with the historical results.