With the midterm elections six months away, Democrats are burdened by an uneven economic recovery and a stubbornly unpopular health care law. Perhaps equally important, Barack Obama’s political standing is in some respects weaker than it was at a comparable point in the 2010 campaign, which ended with the Republicans gaining a majority in the House.
A national survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY, conducted April 23-27 among 1,501 adults (including 1,162 registered voters), finds that 47% of registered voters support the Republican candidate in their district or lean Republican, while 43% favor the Democratic candidate or lean Democratic. 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.
While a majority of voters (54%) say that Barack Obama will not be a factor in their vote this fall, more (26%) see their vote as a vote against the president than for him (16%). In February 2010, 24% of voters saw their vote as for Obama while about as many (20%) considered it a vote against him.
At this early point in the campaign, Obama inspires far less enthusiasm among Democratic voters than he did four years ago. Only three-in-ten Democratic voters (31%) think of their vote as being “for” the president. In February 2010, 47% of Democratic voters saw their vote as an expression of support for the president.USA Today compares this result to past years:
Six months before Election Day, the GOP has a one point edge over the Democrats (46%-45%) among registered voters nationwide in the generic ballot. The question asks respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates. While that margin is well within the survey's sampling error, any advantage is noteworthy, since Republicans normally perform better among the smaller pool of those who vote in midterm elections than the wider group of registered voters.
The GOP's margin grows 48%-45% when looking just at those who say they voted in the last midterm elections, in 2010.