A glance at the Associated Press’s write up of the latest AP-GfK poll, conducted July 24 – 28, leads the reader to believe there really isn’t that much to see there.
Sure, the American public is incredibly dispirited, mistrustful of their elected leaders, and generally dissatisfied with the direction of the country; but you already knew that. One-third of respondents don’t even care who is in charge – they don’t believe it matters.
Neither party “is trusted much to manage the federal government,” the AP write up reads. While there are some indications that the coming midterms are set to benefit Republicans, the AP goes out of its way to ensure the reader does not come away from this piece with that conclusion.
“All told, only 28 percent of Americans think the nation is heading in the right direction, the lowest level in August of an election year since 2008. It’s about on par with 2006, when Democrats took control of the U.S. House amid a backlash to the Iraq war,” the AP’s post reads. “This time around, it’s not clear whether either party will benefit from the disaffection.”
Except, it is clear.
The latest AP-GfK poll shows that the public is perfectly split on the “generic congressional ballot” question. 33 percent back Democrats, 33 percent support Republicans, and another third have no opinion or declined to respond. But that indicates a pretty broad shift towards Republicans on a question which traditionally favors Democrats. In December of last year, just after the government shutdown, Democrats were favored over Republicans on this question 39 to 33 percent with 27 percent offering no preference. That result was virtually unchanged in January.
AP-GfK found an outlier result in the generic ballot question in March when Republicans were favored over Democrats with 37 to 36 percent support, but the GOP was back in the doghouse with voters in May. Then, 37 percent backed Democrats to control Congress while only 31 percent supported the GOP. July’s results represent a major shift of support among voters away from Democrats and toward either Republicans or the abstention column.
On nearly every domestic issue, President Barack Obama’s approval rating with voters is mired in the mid-to-low 30s. Just 40 percent approve of the overall job the president is doing in office.
Democrats are far more disheartened by the present state of affairs than are their Republican counterparts. Faith that the country is heading in the right direction is down among self-identified Democrats by 11 points since May and now stands at just 49 percent. Self-described independents are also down on the direction the country is heading, with just 23 percent saying America is on the right course. Among Republicans, faith in the direction of the country remains unchanged at an abysmal 9 percent.
Democrats who are down on the direction of the country and dispirited by how the leader of their party, the current President of the United States, his handling his job are unlikely to rush enthusiastically out the door to vote in November. But the best news for Republicans in this poll came when voters were asked which party is better suited to handle a number of problems. Voters backed the GOP on every one of those issues.
On handling the economy, Republicans are better trusted than Democrats by 6 points. On the federal budget, the GOP is more entrusted by voters than Democrats by 5 points. On immigration, 4 points. On protecting the nation from foreign threats, Republicans enjoy a 15-point advantage.
On America’s image abroad, something that was supposedly so damaged by George W. Bush’s approach to foreign affairs, the GOP is more trusted than Democrats by 3 points. On managing international crises, the GOP has a 9-point advantage over the party in power. Finally, on managing the federal government – the Democratic Party’s stock-in-trade – the Republican Party is more trusted by 27 to 24 percent.
These are number which should (and likely are) prompting Democratic strategists to reach for the panic button. No wonder then that the AP’s readout takes on the tone of a child psychologist helping an underage victim cope with recent trauma. Keep the band playing as the ship sinks so as not to unnerve the passengers.
There is no sugarcoating it. These are awful numbers for incumbent Democrats heading into the fall. And we haven’t even started applying likely voter screens yet.