Democrats were supposed to be on the upswing.
Obamacare enrollment numbers hit 8 million this month. Voters may not have warmed to the law entirely, but they also don’t want to repeal it. In fact, some Democrats are even experimenting with embracing the health care law.
But a new poll is raining all over Democrats’ parade. According to new numbers from The Washington Post and ABC News, the president’s party is on track for a midterm shellacking like it experienced in 2010.
The Democrats’ first big problem is that the head of the party, President Barack Obama, now has the lowest approval rating this poll has found during his entire presidency: 41 percent.
A minority of Americans—just 42 percent—approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, his handling of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (37 percent) and his handling of the crisis between Russia and Ukraine (34 percent). His overall disapproval figure is at 52 percent.
This is bad news not just for the president but mainly for the members of his party who are on the ballot, because presidential approval plays a role in whom voters pick at the polls. As the poll shows, by 53 percent to 39 percent, respondents said they would rather have the GOP controlling Congress to counterbalance the president, rather than a Democrat-controlled Congress supporting him. Those numbers are similar to what polling showed in the fall of 2010, when Republicans took back the House of Representatives and gained six seats in the Senate. If Republicans gain six seats this November, they will take control of the Senate.
According to Harry Enten at the data journalism site FiveThirtyEight, presidential approval helps to accurately predict election outcomes—another grim fact for Democrats. Enten crunched the numbers from 58 previous Senate races going back to 2006 and found that when the president’s approval is below 43 percent—which it is now—candidates in the president’s party lost 72 percent of the time. Enten suggests that “smart political forecasts incorporate” both horse-race polls and presidential approval.
Langer Research Associates, the polling firm that conducted Tuesday’s poll, found that pessimism over the economy is driving Democrats’ numbers down. By 71 percent to 29 percent, voters rate the economy negatively. Only 28 percent think it’s getting better, while 36 percent say it’s getting worse. “Among people who see the economy improving, 65 percent prefer Democratic control of Congress, while among those who see the economy as stagnant or worsening, 62 percent favor Republican control,” the pollsters note in their findings.
If there’s a silver lining for Democrats, it’s that voters still trust them over Republicans on a number of important issues, such as health care, immigration, issues important to women, helping the middle class and even the economy. The only issue where voters trust Republicans more is the federal deficit.
This helps explain why Democrats have been hammering on the issues where they enjoy an advantage: raising the minimum wage, the pay gap for women and extending emergency unemployment benefits. Republicans are expected to block each of these initiatives, but they remain some of Democrats’ best weapons in a tough election year.
The poll surveyed 1,000 adults between April 24 and 27 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.