The midterm elections will take place one week from today, and so far the arc of the sixth-year midterm has provided few surprises in national polling, including today’s from the Washington Post and ABC News. Driven by a strong sense of disgruntlement, a majority of likely voters want a Republican Congress to deal with an ineffectual President Barack Obama. Mainly, they want competence to return to the federal government:
Driving attitudes is a pervasive sense of a country in trouble. Overwhelming majorities say the country is badly off-track and give the economy negative ratings. Economic expectations are little better today than they were at this time four years ago.
Six in 10 say they cannot trust the government in Washington to do what is right — the same as a year ago in the aftermath of the government shutdown and the botched rollout of the federal Web site for the Affordable Care Act.
With multiple crises confronting the country — including the spread of Ebola in West Africa and cases here at home, as well as threats from Islamic State militants — a majority now says the government’s ability to deal with big problems has declined in the past few years. Among those who say this, more — by 3 to 1 — blame Obama and the Democrats rather than Republicans in Congress.
The sense of disgruntlement appears to be coloring public interest in the 2014 campaign, which has been marked by an unprecedented amount of money spent by candidates and, especially, outside groups. Voters in states with competitive Senate races have been barraged with negative ads that began running early this year and now clog local newscasts.
The Post notes that there is less interest in the midterms than there was in 2010, but that’s less true among Republican voters. Fifty percent of all likely voters now say they will vote for the Republican in their Congressional race, six points up on Democrats in a question they need to lead significantly just to perform evenly. Likely-voter independents break much harder for Republicans, 54/37, up significantly over the last two months. The gender gap has all but disappeared, too. Democrats lead among women, but only by five points (49/44, 50/45 among married women, and only 48/43 among unmarried women), which on generic ballot questions is practically a wash. Republicans have a seventeen-point lead among men (56/39). The lack of a big lead among unmarried women seems like a very clear sign that the “war on women” has backfired in this cycle; Democrats aren’t gaining among single women, but they’re alienating men by the truckload.
Many likely voters tend to agree with Barack Obama about his policies being on the ballot next Tuesday. Forty-seven percent of likely voters say Obama will be a factor in their choice, but Republicans lead on that question by a 2:1 ratio, 31/16. On either side, the passion rules the day; 27% say opposition to Obama will be a strong factor in their vote for the GOP, while 13% say their support for Obama will be a strong reason to vote Democratic. It was precisely this passion deficit Obama thought he could address with his remarks, and precisely why Democrats were angry he’d made them at all.
Put simply, Obama is toxic in this election cycle. Even among all adults — the most friendly sample possible — Obama’s job approval rating in this usually-friendly series is 43/51, with almost as many strongly disapproving (39%) as overall approving. Among likely voters, it’s 42/56, almost identical to his approval rating on the economy (42/55). Obama scores much worse among independents in both questions — 37/57 on overall job approval (43% strongly disapproving) and 35/59 on the economy.
For those keeping score, the sample on this poll was a D+8 overall, but only D+3 among likely voters, 33/30/31. That’s pretty close to 2010’s 35/35/30 in terms of relative position, so the LV results seem pretty solid. They point to a big Republican wave, and the only question will be whether that will make a difference in big Republican states where GOP-held seats in the Senate may be in danger, such as Kansas, Georgia, and Kentucky.