The Democratic Party held a slightly wider, six percentage-point lead on this important indicator of party strength in July, 50% to 44%. However, both 2009 results show a more competitive political environment than Gallup has generally seen since before the Democrats regained control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2006 midterm elections. Closer to elections, Gallup bases its results on “likely voters.” Doing so typically improves the Republicans’ positioning by several points; thus, when Democrats lead slightly among registered voters, it is possible for Republicans to be ahead among likely voters…

The Republican Party’s relatively strong position on the generic ballot in the latest poll, conducted Oct. 1-4, stems from the support of political independents, who now favor Republican over Democratic candidates by 45% to 36%. In July, independents were evenly divided in their party voting preferences, whereas last fall they showed a clear preference for the Democrats.