Better Off Than We Were Four Years Ago

In the last off-year elections, Republicans trailed by eight to 15 points on the generic ballot from the summer  of 2005 throughout 2006.  The challenge wasn’t simply Katrina — the slippage came prior to then, as pre-surge Iraq proved to be a mess.  The deficit on the generic ballot remained in double digit range throughout 2008.

In case you are skeptical that the generic ballot matters, it does.  In2006, Dems won 54.3% of the major party vote, while GOPers won 45.7% (an 8.6% deficit).  In 2008, the Dems won 55.7% of the major party vote, compared to 44.3% for the GOP candidates nationwide (an 11.4% deficit).  A quick thanks to Clark Bensen at Polidata for digging up that data quickly.

After four years of horrendous generic ballot numbers, the data is consistently showing improvement.  The latest Public Opinion Strategies national survey, taken April 7-9, 2009 among 800 likely voters, has the generic ballot deficit at 39% Republican/42% Democratic.  These data are pretty consistent with what most public polls have been showing in March and now April — the generic ballot ranges anywhere from tied to a five point Democratic advantage.

What’s remarkable about these results (other, of course, than the fact that Republicans are back to being competitive for the first time since 2004) is that the GOPer is close on the generic ballot DESPITE the Dems still significant advantage on party ID.  This survey found an eight point party ID deficit — 33% say they are GOPers, while 41% are Dems, and 24% are Independents (2% refused/don’t know combined).

This means that GOPers are winning the generic ballot among Independents (33% GOP/23% Dem).  Both parties are doing well with their respective bases — the GOP candidate is winning 89%-2% among their base, while the Dem candidate is winning 86%-3% among their base.

As I have made the case ad naseum, it is important to remember several points:

  • Because there are more self-identified Dems than GOPers now, we have to win Independents big.
  • The GOP challenge is NOT a base problem.  It has NEVER been a base problem in the last two elections.
  • The challenge in 2006 is that Independents were angry with us.
  • In 2008,  the challenge was that there are a lot more Dems than GOPers (and Independents hadn’t completely vented in 2006).

There is still a lot of work to be done. . .but at least Republicans are back in the game.  Later this week I will post more subgroup findings from the generic ballot, but further evidence of the closing of the generic ballot gap is certainly blog-worthy.

Public Opinion Strategies