We’ve seen plenty of polling that shows voter disenchantment with both parties. That doesn’t make the disenchantment evenly distributed, however, as Gallup discovers in its latest poll:
Americans see the Republican Party as better able than the Democratic Party to protect the country from terrorism and military threats, and to keep the country prosperous over the next few years.
These views come as record numbers of Americans are dissatisfied with the way the nation is being governed and express highly negative opinions about a number of other dimensions of the federal government. Next year’s elections provide Americans with an opportunity to vent their frustrations in the presidential and the congressional elections. At this point, Republicans, who currently control the House but not the presidency or the Senate, appear to be at least slightly better positioned going into the elections, given Americans’ preference for the GOP to handle the nation’s domestic and international woes.
Democrats held the advantage over the Republican Party on the “prosperous” dimension from 2003 through 2009, a period that included the majority of George W. Bush’s presidency and the first year of Barack Obama’s. The advantage switched to the GOP last year and remains so this year, by 48% to 39%.
Republicans have a long trend line of advantage on national security, so that’s not exactly a surprise. Democrats briefly held the lead in late 2007 as the war in Iraq worsened and George W. Bush launched the “surge” strategy that eventually succeeded in pacifying the violence.
Prosperity is another matter. With the single exception of a tie in late 2002, voters have generally trusted Democrats to protect prosperity over Republicans as late as the third quarter of 2009, at that time by 50/39. By the time of the 2010 midterms, that had flipped by 19 points in the gap to a 48/40 advantage for the GOP. And it’s telling that a year later, after nine months of Republican control of the House, that margin has only changed slightly — and in the direction of Republicans, 48/39.
Similarly, Democrats have surrendered an edge on handling the nation’s “most important problem,” according to voters. Republicans historically trailed in this measure even through the 2004 election, in which they won the presidency and picked up seats in the House and Senate. In late 2009, Democrats led this measure 45/34, and even in the 2010 midterms held onto a statistical tie at 38/40. Republicans now lead 44/37.
Still, it’s not all celebration for Republicans, either. Support for a third party remains relatively high at 55/38 after a 47/47 tie in 2008. As Republicans get ready to take the Senate and argue for a Republican President, voters don’t seem terribly interested in single-party control of Washington, although they are mainly diffident about the prospect — 28% like the idea, 29% don’t, and 39% say it won’t make a difference either way. It’s a portrait of dissatisfaction, but Democrats are still bearing the brunt of it.