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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Polls Hint At Need For Stronger Dem Memes

This item by J.P. Green was first published on August 15, 2010.
Politico‘s Ben Smith presents a memo by Administration poll analyst Joel Benenson arguing that “Republican unpopularity could be the Democratic Party’s best defense against its own unpopularity.” According to Benenson’s bullet points:

• Today’s NBC/Wall St. Journal poll underscores the fact that with fewer than 90 days until the mid-term elections, the Republican Party’s standing is at one of its lowest points ever and its competitive position vs. the Democrats looks much as it did in the summers of 1998 and 2002, neither of which were “wave” elections.
• The NBC/WSJ poll shows that not only is the Republican Party’s image at its lowest point ever in their polling, their ratings are still lower than Democrats’ and their party image has worsened much more than the Democrats when compared with the last midterm elections in 2006.

See also Ed Kilgore’s post on the survey here. Further, Benenson adds,

• Only 24 percent of Americans gave the Republicans a positive rating while 46 percent were negative for a net of -22 (28 percent were neutral). This positive rating is not only a historic low, it is down 9 points since May — just three months ago. In addition, in July of 2006, a year in which Republicans lost 30 seats, their rating stood at 32 percent positive, 39 percent negative for only a -7 net rating or a change in the net rating of -15. During the same period the Democratic rating slipped only slightly by a net of -4 points from 32/39 in July 2006 to 33/44 today.
• This overall outlook is also consistent with an ABC/Washington Post poll from a month ago (7/13/10) that showed Americans’ confidence in Republicans in Congress to make “the right decisions for the country’s future” lagging behind Democrats:
– 73 percent say they are not confident in Republicans in Congress while 26 percent say they are, for a net negative confidence rating of -47 points.
– Democrats in Congress are at 32 percent confident (6 points higher than the GOP) and 67 percent who say they are not confident (6 points lower than the GOP), for a net confidence rating of -35, which is 12 points better than the congressional Republicans.
• When asked in the NBC/WSJ poll whether they prefer Democratic or Republican control of Congress after the November elections, 43 percent said Democrats and 42 percent said Republicans. While Democrats had a 10-point margin in 2006 when they gained 31 seats, the previous two midterms also showed a deadlocked preference in the summers of 1998 and 2002 in the NBC/WSJ polls. In both of those elections, the gains were only in single digits: 5 seats for the Democrats in 1998 and 8 seats for the Republicans in 2002.
• In addition, a Pew poll from early July showed that Republicans have a significant image deficit among Americans on the question of which party is “more concerned about people like me.” In that survey of 1800 Americans, 50 percent said Democrats were more concerned about people like them while only 34 percent said Republicans were.

Cherry-picked as Benenson’s data may be, all three polls appear to be methodologically-solid. If Benenson is right, Dems are in a better position, image-wise than Republicans. There’s plenty of room for improvement for Dems, but the GOP is in a deeper mess in terms of the way they are viewed by the public.

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