Poll: GOP Has Slight Edge on 2014 Ballot

Posted: Apr 07, 2014 3:35 PM

A new Associated Press poll gives the GOP a small advantage on the so-called generic Congressional ballot, a significant reversal from its January survey:

The latest Associated Press-GfK poll holds bad news for President Barack Obama, but as the November elections draw closer, there are ominous signs for congressional Democrats as well. Preferences for control of Congress are tight, but Republicans have gained on Democrats since January. Thirty-six percent in last month's poll said they would rather see the Democrats in charge of Congress and 37 percent chose Republicans. Democrats held a narrow advantage on that question in January, when 39 percent favored the Democrats and 32 percent the Republicans...That's not the only positive sign in the poll for the Republicans. Favorable views of the GOP have improved, with 38 percent overall now saying they hold a favorable impression of the Party. Republicans' positive view of their own party has increased from 57 percent in January to 72 percent now. Even impressions of the tea party movement have shifted more positive in recent months.

That's an eight point swing, and any GOP lead on this question is pretty big news, as Democrats have traditionally performed better on this measure. Republican favorability has been in the toilet for years, with the GOP consistently trailing Democrats on that metric, too. But much of that gap has been attributable to self-identified Republicans disapproving of their own party, whereas rank-and-file Democrats have remained far more loyal to their party's brand. The GOP's image rebound is a function of a larger share of their voters "coming home," so to speak. Meanwhile, political independents have been roughly equally sour on both parties, though they're currently trending Republican as a voting bloc. A big reason behind Republicans' surge is a clear intensity gap among the two parties' core constituencies, a phenomenon that's manifested itself in other recent polling:

In the new poll, registered voters who are most strongly interested in politics favored the Republicans by 14 percentage points, 51 percent to 37 percent. In January, this group was about evenly split, with 42 percent preferring Democrats and 45 percent the Republicans.

Democrats are seeking to counter this trend by energizing their base through a series of pure messaging votes in the Senate, by dispatching Joe Biden to denounce so-called "voter suppression" attempts by Republicans, and by giving vulnerable members lots of face time to promote popular agenda items:

It's all an attempt to shift the conversation away from the hobbled economy and an enduringly unpopular healthcare law. Part of the strategy also entails Harry Reid steadfastly refusing to allow any Republican amendments on practically any bills under consideration, thus insulating his members from taking tough votes. He defends this abuse of power by blaming the Koch brothers. Reid has used a controversial debate-stifling maneuver more often than his last six predecessors combined, dating back to the 1970s. Senate Democrats have also declined to offer a budget for the fourth time in five years, despite their statutory obligation to do so.