Pew Poll: GOP's "Do Nothing" Congress Vulnerable This Fall
Today’s Pew poll has bad news in it for the GOP this fall.
The public's strong appetite for change in Washington is seen both in the majority of voters who say they would like to see most members of Congress defeated in November (53%), and in the sizable minority who wants to see their representative turned out in the midterms (28%). Both measures reflect anti-incumbent sentiment not seen since late in the historic 1994 campaign, just before Republicans gained control of Congress. In recent elections, far fewer voters evinced a desire for change; in October 2002, just 38% said they did not want to see most members reelected and 19% said that about their own representative.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted among 1,501 Americans from April 7-16, finds that the Democrats maintain a large advantage in voting intentions for the fall. The Democrats' current 10-point lead is little changed from February (50%-41%), but there has been only a handful of occasions since 1994 when either party has held such a sizable advantage in the congressional horse race.
As was the case in February, the Democrats' edge in the ballot test stems largely from its strength among independent voters. Roughly half of independents (51%) say they favor the Democratic candidate in their district, compared with just 31% who say they will vote Republican. And compared with recent elections, far more independents say the issue of which party controls Congress will be a factor in their vote this fall.
President Bush's sagging poll ratings are hurting GOP fortunes. Fully twice as many voters view their ballot this fall as a vote against Bush rather than as a vote for the president (34% vs.17%). But the party's prospects also are being undermined by the fairly common view that the 109th Congress has achieved little to date. Fully 41% of voters say the current Congress has accomplished less than its recent predecessors, 47% say its accomplishments are the same, and just 7% think it has accomplished more. That is by far the most negative evaluation of Congress's record in polls since 1997. Independents, along with Democrats, are much more critical of the record compiled by Congress than in the two previous off-year elections.
In general, people who fault Congress for accomplishing little say they blame Republican leaders for this (58% vs. 13% who blame Democratic leaders). More broadly, the Republican Party's image continues to slip. Just 40% say they have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party, down slightly since February (44%); this is the GOP's lowest favorability mark in surveys dating to 1992. The Democratic Party has a somewhat more positive image (47% favorable).
Bush’s approval rating in this poll is 35%, which mirrors the Fox poll results of 33%, and the Harris Interactive poll results of 35%. The only area where the GOP has an advantage over the Democrats is in an area that is irrelevant this fall: the GOP is seen as having stronger political leaders, which is to be expected when the Democrats have no power in Washington and when the GOP controls the media.