In a survey just published and available on the company’s website, but not yet publicized or reported, the left-leaning public opinion firm Democracy Corps confirms the dangers to Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections.
According to Democracy Corps, likely voters have a sharply negative view of the president’s health-care and economic plans, and a far more favorable view of Republicans than they did a few months ago. Because Democracy Corps was founded by Democrats James Carville and Stanley Greenberg, the firm’s findings have significant influence in national Democratic circles.
Democracy Corps surveyed more than 1,000 voters nationwide, including more than 800 likely voters. The group asked voters to identify themselves as “warm” or “cool” on parties or proposals. Fifty-two percent of likely voters described themselves as “cool” on the president’s health-care plan, against just 34 percent were “warm.” When it came to the president’s economic plan, 35 percent were warm against 49 percent cool. The findings are consistent with other national surveys, which show the health-care plan currently under debate to be widely unpopular.
The survey also confirms the continued deterioration of the standing of Democrat House incumbents. In a comparable Democracy Corps survey conducted last August, likely voters had a warm attitude toward their incumbent House Democrat by a margin of 18 points. For Republicans incumbents, the number was 16. In the current survey by contrast, likely voters gave their Republican incumbent a 19-point edge, while Democrats slipped to 11 points. That’s a shift of 10 percentage points in the relative standing of the two parties in a little more than 4 months.
The deterioration of Democrat House candidates showed up clearly in Democracy Corps’ generic congressional ballot question. Likely voters favored the Democrat candidate by a margin of 47 percent to 43 percent in August. Now the generic Democrat trails by 46 percent to 45 percent. Those figures are consistent with results in other recent surveys. According the Real Clear Politics average, Republican congressional candidates have an edge of about 2 percent in current polling.
Democracy Corps showed more improvement in the Republican “brand” than other current surveys. According the group, the two parties are essentially tied in the public eye. Likely voters feel cool to the Republican party by a net margin of 9 points; for Democrats, the margin is 8 points. In August, voters were more cool to Republicans by 12 points, while Democrats trailed by just 5. This finding is likely to cause concern among Democrats who have argued that significant GOP congressional gains are unlikely while the party is viewed more negatively than Democrats.
On voter intensity and propensity to vote, the poll saw a significant GOP edge. Democracy Corps described Republicans as “intensely enthusiastic” about the 2010 vote, with 46 percent seen as “very enthusiastic” about voting in the 2010 congressional elections, against just 33 percent of Democrats.
Republicans will be pleased with their standing on individual issues. When asked which party they trust more on the economy, for example, likely voters favor Republicans by 3 points (46 percent to 43 percent). On whom they trust to “be on your side,” Democrats hold a statistically insignificant 1-point edge. On government spending, Republicans have an 11 point advantage. On the deficit, the Republican edge is 8 points.
The poll tested a series of messages and themes that candidates may use in 2010. When given a choice in characterizing the president’s economic plan, voters agreed with the negative message by a margin of 49 percent to 45 percent. That message was: “President Obama’s economic policies have run up a record federal deficit while failing to end the recession or slow the record pace of job losses.”
Other questions cast doubt on the ability of Democrats to make up lost ground by tying their opponents to polarizing conservatives. When told that “Democrats are working to pass mainstream, pragmatic solutions and win broad support. Republicans take their lead from extreme partisans like Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney,” 43 percent were more likely to vote for the Democrat candidate, against 53 percent who were not.
A number of other negative messages about Republicans failed to win the backing of a majority — including messages about Republican obstructionism and Republicans “giving power back” to insurance companies. By contrast, voters supported a Republican message of lower taxes to promote economic recovery — by a margin of 52 percent to 45 percent.
Other questions showed declines in both the bellwether “right track/wrong track” question, and in approval of Barack Obama. In August, more likely voters saw the country as “on the wrong track,” by a margin of 17 points (37 percent to 55 percent); the deficit has grown to 21 points (58 percent to 36 percent) in the current survey. In August, likely voters approved of the way Barack Obama was handling his job as president by a 50 percent to 45 percent margin. Now voters are tied on the president’s performance — 48percent to 48 percent.