GOP leads by 6 on Time's generic Congressional ballot

Barack Obama’s approval numbers continue to decline and the Democrats continue to struggle in Time Magazine’s latest polling.  Using a sample with an arguably fair sample split, Obama gets a 46% approval rating among registered voters, down from last month’s 49%.  Democrats looking at the upcoming midterms get yet another data point showing a profound change in the American electorate, with a six-point deficit among likely voters.

Time, however, focuses on assorted nonsense as its lead, and their survey doesn’t bother to ask about any issues other than religion and the Ground Zero mosque:

Although the American strain of Islamophobia lacks some of the traditional elements of religious persecution — there’s no sign that violence against Muslims is on the rise, for instance — there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that hate speech against Muslims and Islam is growing both more widespread and more heated. Meanwhile, a new TIME-Abt SRBI poll found that 46% of Americans believe Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence against nonbelievers. Only 37% know a Muslim American. Overall, 61% oppose the Park51 project, while just 26% are in favor of it. Just 23% say it would be a symbol of religious tolerance, while 44% say it would be an insult to those who died on 9/11.

And, of course, Time polled on Barack Obama’s religion:

Twenty-eight percent of voters do not believe Muslims should be eligible to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Nearly one third of the country thinks adherents of Islam should be barred from running for President — slightly higher than the 24% who mistakenly believe that the current occupant of the Oval Office is himself a Muslim. In all, just 47% of respondents believe Obama is a Christian; 24% declined to respond to the question or said they were unsure, and 5% believe he is neither Christian nor Muslim.

If “only 37% of Americans know a Muslim American,” that could be because Muslims only make up about two percent of the population, even by the most generous assumptions.  That’s not a reflection of Islamaphobia; it’s a reflection of opportunity.  In fact, given the tiny proportion of Muslims to the general US population, it seems rather impressive that 37% of the population knows a Muslim-American. (Among Republicans and independents, 35% of each claim to know a Muslim, while among Democrats, it’s 39%.)

Turning back to the more pressing parts of the survey, independents continue to reject Democrats.  Obama only gets a 41/49 underwater approval rating from unaffiliated voters.  Among likely-voter independents, Republicans win the generic Congressional ballot by nine points, 36/27, with 34% still on the fence.

When asked about their specific Congressional races, registered voters of all stripes said they support or are leaning towards supporting the Republican by five points.  Among likely voters, that gap expanded to seven points.  Time doesn’t give historical data on those questions, but the implication is that the generic measure is a pretty good indicator of how voters will cast ballots in November — and that the huge swing away from Democrats may mean that a number of races previously thought to be close may be more solidly GOP than first thought.

One last word on the nonsense portion of the poll: while the Ground Zero mosque has taken up much of the political oxygen over the past week or so, due in no small part to the fumbles of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, it’s not moving the political needle at all.  In this survey, 7% of voters claimed that the controversy had pushed them towards voting for Democrats, 14% said it pushed them towards voting for Republicans — and 74% said the debate hasn’t had any impact on their politics.  Most people care  a lot more about the economy, jobs, and runaway spending in Washington, and the party that focuses on those issues has a lot more opportunity to win votes.  Maybe Time Magazine might get more readers by focusing on the same issues.