Campaign 2010

Jun 28, 2006

USA Today - Polling favors Democrats

DCCC Press

Jun 28, 2006

USA Today - Polling favors Democrats

By Susan Page, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Americans are paying unusually close attention to the congressional elections in November, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. They are more inclined to deliver significant gains to Democrats than in any year since Republicans won control of the House and Senate in 1994.

Those surveyed are more concerned about national issues than local ones — a situation that favors Democrats hoping to tap discontent over the Iraq war and gasoline prices — and prefer Democrats over Republicans on handling every major issue except terrorism.

President Bush looms as a significant drag: 40% of Americans say they are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports Bush. A fifth say they are more likely.

"At this point, it certainly looks like a significant tilt to the Democrats, but it's still early," says James Campbell, a political scientist at the University of Buffalo and author of The Presidential Pulse of Congressional Elections. He says the Democratic advantage could narrow over the next four months if voters see the election more as a choice between two candidates and less as a referendum on the president.

House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, express optimism about prospects they will pick up the 15 seats needed to take control. They are hampered, though, by the limited number of competitive districts. The non-partisan Cook Political Report now ranks 35 GOP-held seats as competitive.

"Things are difficult, and there's a reasonable chance we'll lose some seats in both bodies," says Republican pollster David Winston. "But at the moment the majorities look reasonably solid because Democrats haven't put into play the sort of seats they need to."

The poll of 1,000 adults Friday through Sunday has an error margin of +/-3 percentage points.

Among the findings:

• Americans are interested in the election at levels not usually seen in non-presidential years. More than a third have thought "quite a lot" about the congressional elections. Seven of 10 say they are very motivated to get out and vote this year.

• Democrats are particularly engaged: 56% say they are "more enthusiastic about voting than usual," the highest level recorded since the question was first asked in 1994. Among Republicans, 43% say they are more enthusiastic than usual.

• Americans are increasingly likely to identify themselves as Democrats. Including those who "lean" to one party or the other, 55% call themselves Democrats; 38%, Republicans. That's the biggest edge for Democrats since 1998. By 54%-38%, the registered voters surveyed say they'd vote for a Democratic congressional candidate over a Republican one if the election were held today.

• That said, voters aren't particularly enamored of Democratic officeholders. Congressional Democrats have an approval rating of just 38%, 1 percentage point above Bush and 5 points above congressional Republicans.

• Democrats are preferred by double digits to Republicans on four of the five top-ranked issues: Iraq, government corruption, the economy and health care. Republicans are preferred by 11 percentage points on handling terrorism.

• Only 39% say most members of Congress deserve re-election, but 61% say their own representative does. That disparity is common and no guarantee to incumbents. The numbers were similar in July 1994, the year Democrats lost 54 House seats. Then, 60% said their representative deserved re-election; 41% said most members did.


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