Gallup Poll: Midterms Look Grim for Democrats

Friday, 01 Aug 2014 05:12 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Slightly more Americans identify politically as being Democrats than Republicans, but that isn't enough to overcome voters' major dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama, the economy, and other factors — and could spell a tough time for Democrats at the polls this year, a new Gallup Poll concludes.

According to the poll, released Thursday, 42 percent of Americans say they are Democrats or they are Democratic-leaning independents, and 40 percent say they are Republicans or lean right.

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But that advantage doesn't bode well when compared to historical patterns. The numbers parallel what Gallup found at the same point during similar midterm years of 1994, 2002, and 2010 that went strongly Republican at the polls, not what was measured when Democrats went strong in 1998 and 2006.

When paired with a June Gallup Poll that revealed that just 1 in 4 Americans are satisfied with the direction in which the country is heading, and showing that Obama's popularity is at the same low point as in 2010, the pollster said that the indicators are pointing to many difficulties for Democrats once again.

In 2010, when the president's job approval rating hovered around the 40 percent mark, Democrats ended up losing more than 60 House seats.

"Only two presidents have had lower job approval ratings in recent midterm elections — George W. Bush in 2006 and Ronald Reagan in 1982," Gallup pointed out in June.

"In those years, the president's party lost more than 20 seats, suggesting seat loss is not always proportional to presidential job approval, but underscoring the peril the president's party faces when his approval rating is below 50 percent."

In the more recent poll, Gallup noted that the indicators will not likely change by November, so the Democratic Party will have to "match or exceed Republican turnout this fall if they hope to keep control of the Senate and minimize the size of the Republican majority in the House."

Another issue is that more Republicans tend to vote than Democrats in midterm elections, and the advantage "leaves the Democratic Party politically vulnerable in midterm election years when they do not have a significant cushion in partisanship," said Gallup.

In fact, in years like this one, when Democrats have a slightly higher percentage, Republican turnout advantages have led to GOP victories for House seats in 1994, 2002, and 2010, the report said.

In addition, the seats gained could be determined by structural factors, the report said, including how parties performed in the last election. Republicans gained seats in 1994 and 2010 after the executive and legislative branches of government were controlled by Democrats, and after former President Bill Clinton's approval ratings were in the mid-40s in 1994, much like Obama's were in 2010.

But as Republicans already control the House of Representatives, the GOP is more likely to make its big gains in the Senate, replacing many incumbents who were elected in 2008.

The new poll was conducted from July 1-30 with a random sample of 14,718 adults age 18 and older. Results based on the full sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point.

Meanwhile, The New York Times, which conducts a daily computerized analysis of the upcoming election, Friday said Republicans have a 54 percent likelihood of wresting control of the Senate away from Democrats. But the newspaper is still declaring the November election to be "essentially the same as a coin flip.

The newspaper ranks six Democratic incumbents in the most danger of losing their seats to Republicans: John Walsh of Montana, with a 96 percent likelihood; Mark Pryor, Arkansas, 74 percent; Mary Landrieu, Louisiana, 60 percent; Mark Udall, Colorado, 40 percent; Kay Hagan, North Carolina, 39 percent; and Mark Begich, Alaska, at 38 percent.

Also on Thursday, Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said at a luncheon with reporters that he considers the likelihood that Republicans will retake the Senate higher today than when he took control of the group in 2012, reports The Daily Caller

He said Republicans are expected to pick up seats from Democrats in 12 to 14 states, but Republicans only need to turn six states to win back the Senate.

The most likely seats to be taken, said Moran, are in West Virginia, Montana, and South Dakota, which he described as "solidly red states, and they have good candidates, excellent candidates, and Democrat opposition is not at that caliber."

Other key target states, Moran said, are Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Alaska, where Democratic incumbents are seeking re-election in red states.

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