Democrats took brief refuge last week in a Gallup poll showing that Americans have a better—or, more accurately, less bad—opinion of their political party than of the Republican Party. Forty-four percent of respondents voiced a favorable opinion of the donkey party, compared to 34 percent for the elephants. Despite a host of scandals plaguing a Democratic president, and the unpopular specter of Obamacare hovering over the political landscape, the numbers seemed to suggest that Americans might just hold their nose and favor Democrats at the ballot box over Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections.
But a closer look suggests a very different outcome.
Congressional Democrats also polled better (read that as "less bad," once again) approval ratings than their Republican counterparts in a Politico Poll released today, but respondents still favored voting for GOP candidates in the midterms. Democrats get thumbs-up from 35 percent of respondents, compared to 31 percent of Republicans. But when asked how they would actually vote if the elections were held today, 41 percent of people tapped the Republican candidate, with 34 percent favoring the Democrat. Even the "don't knows," when pressed to answer, leaned GOP by 21 percent to 16 percent.
A Pew/USA Today Poll at the end of April found similar sentiments, with 47 percent of registered voters supporting or leaning Republican in the upcoming congressional races, while 43 percent favor the Democratic candidate.
To be sure, RealClearPolitics' running average of polls finds the midterms (still six months away, and so anybody's to lose) a toss-up.
For instance, a Fox News poll released last week gives Democrats the edge 43 percent to 40 percent, contradicting the Pew and Politico Polls. But the advantage in the Fox News poll flips to the GOP when results are limited to those with the greatest interest in the election and therefore, presumably, more likely to vote.
And, as the Pew write-up puts it, "the trend over the past six months in the so-called generic ballot shows that Democrats have lost ground. In October, Democrats held a six-point lead (49% to 43%) in midterm voting preferences."
The political party holding the White House often gets punished by the electorate in midterm elections, but Democrats may have a very specific albatross around their necks in 2014.
Eighty-nine percent of respondents to the Politico Poll said the Affordable Care Act health care law is "important" in determining their votes in December. They overwhelmingly wanted the law repealed (48 percent) or changed (35 percent).
A Kaiser tracking poll reveals that opposition to Obamacare has overwhelmed support for the law continuously since the begining of 2013.
Pew found opposition to the law holding at 55 percent—as high as it has ever been.
With the president, and his party, so closely associated with the trouble-plagued health care law, the Democrats appear to be in no position to buck the midterm thumping the party in power power usually suffers at the polls.