Discontented voters who swept an historic Republican majority into the House last November are ready to sweep out that majority just as dramatically, according to a
survey released Tuesday (pdf) by Public Policy Polling. The Republicans, who have been pushing deep spending cuts and controversial anti-abortion and anti-gay rights policies since January, have apparently alienated the independent swing voters who put them in power.
“The conventional wisdom is that Democrats will have a very hard time winning back control of the House next year,” said PPP President Dean Debnam in a release that accompanied the survey results. “But that may be wrong. Voters have soured on the new Republican majority in record time.”
Blogging the survey, PPP’s Tom Jensen noted that 62 percent of voters think “Republicans have either made things worse or brought no improvement to an already unpopular Congress.”
Jensen reports that 46 percent say that today they would vote for Democratic congressional candidates and only 41 percent say they’d vote Republican. “That five-point advantage for Democrats is only a hair below the margin Republicans won by in the national popular vote last year.”
The key to this strong movement back toward the Democrats right now is the same as the key to the strong movement away from the Democrats last year– fickle independents quickly growing unhappy with the party in power. Exit polls showed independents supporting the GOP by a 19 point margin last year at 56-37. Now only 30% of those voters think that the Republican controlled House is moving things in the right direction, compared to 44% who think things were better with the Democrats. Given those numbers it’s not much of a surprise that independents now say they’d vote Democratic for the House by a 42-33 margin if there was an election today, representing a 28 point reversal in a span of just five months.
The survey results suggest the far-right social agenda embraced by congressional Republicans throughout the last three months has turned off voters. PPP reports that, on one hand, more voters see the Democratic Party as mainstream and, on the other, more see the Republican Party as extremist.
The survey found 46 percent of voters see the Democratic Party as mainstream and 39 percent see it as extremist. Whereas only 40 percent see the GOP as mainstream and 48 percent see it as extremist. Most telling, independents said that the Democratic Party is mainstream by a 49 to 36 margin and said the GOP is extremist by a 49 to 33 margin.
Those numbers are not difficult to understand.
In the first week of the Congress, for example, Republicans introduced several bills attempting to block access to abortion. One of the bills attempted to redefine rape to only include “forcible” attacks. Another bill sought to reintroduce the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy repealed in December that barred gay soldiers from serving openly. More recently, the GOP caucus announced it would defend the anti-gay marriage Defense of Marriage Act from legal attacks after the Obama administration announced it believed the law was unconstitutional. Republicans also introduced three bills to defund immensely popular public broadcasting for its supposed liberal bias. And this past week, they placed a provision that would have stripped funding from Planned Parenthood– the top women’s reproductive health organization in the country– at the center of the just-passed federal budget showdown.
Jensen argues that the House GOP takeover may turn out to be an electoral politics boon for President Obama and congressional Democrats.
Although we found the President with slightly negative approval numbers on this poll, when asked whether they had more faith in Obama or congressional Republicans to lead the country in the right direction, 48% of voters picked Obama to only 42% who went with congressional Republicans. Voters may not love Obama as once they did but they’re finding him to be more reasonable than the alternative.
PPP surveyed 532 registered American voters from April 7 to April 10 and lists the margin of error at +/-4.3 percent. The Wall Street Journal ranks PPP as one of the most accurate swing-state pollsters in the country.