Republicans have recaptured voters who had drifted from the party in recent elections, dramatically increasing the GOP’s potential for a strong comeback in November's mid-term campaign, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
“The findings suggest that public opinion has hardened in advance of the 2010 elections, making it tougher for Democrats to translate their legislative successes, or a tentatively improving U.S. economy, into gains among voters,” the Journal reported Thursday night.
The GOP has reconnected with independents, seniors, blue-collar voters, suburban women and small town and rural voters – the core groups they lost in the 2006 elections, when Republicans lost control of the House. Those voter groups now favor GOP control of Congress.
The poll found that:
- The voters who said they were most interested in the November elections favor Republican control of Congress by a 20-point margin, with 56 percent backing the GOP and 36 percent backing Democrats.
- While Democrats believed President Obama's health-care bill would boost Democrats in November, the issue still appeared to be more of a drag on the president's party. Some 44 percent called the health plan a bad idea, compared to 38 percent who saw it as a good idea.
- Independents favored the GOP, 38 percent to 30 percent, compared to favoring Democrats 40 percent to 24 percent in 2006.
- Suburban women favored Democratic control four years ago by a 24-point margin. In the latest survey, they narrowly favored Republicans winning the House.
- A similar turnaround was seen among voters 65 and older.
- People in the survey felt overwhelmingly negative toward both political parties. Nearly one-third of respondents said they "almost never" trust the government in Washington to do what is right—about triple the number who felt that way when the question was asked in October.
- Just 30 percent in the survey said they felt positively about the Republican Party—a smaller share than for the Democratic Party and the tea party movement.
- Of those who want to see Republicans control the House, less than one-third said that was because they support the GOP and its candidates. Rather, nearly two-thirds said they were motivated by opposition to Obama and Democratic policies.
"This data is what it looks like when Republicans assemble what for them is a winning coalition," GOP pollster Bill McInturff, who conducts the survey with Democratic pollster Peter Hart, told the Journal.
He said the Republican alliance appeared to be "firmer and more substantial" than earlier in the year.
Hart noted that the passage of a sweeping health-care law, negotiating a nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia and making a quick arrest in the Times Square terrorism attempt were not resonating with voters as positive steps.
"A lot has happened," he said, "but the basic dynamic of the 2010 elections seems almost set in concrete."
"This is the inverse of where we were four years ago, and in a way that projects to substantial Democratic losses in November," McInturff said.
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