Democracy Corps Congressional Battleground Poll: Our View

As a pollster, I typically find surveys conducted by Democracy Corps/Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (D) terribly interesting and thought-provoking, and genuinely admire the transparency these Democratic pollsters show in releasing their full toplines along with their analysis.

However, if you read just the analysis memo from Democracy Corps most recent Congressional Battleground Survey (http://www.democracycorps.com/Battleground-Surveys/not-so-fast-2014-congressional-battleground-very-competitive/), you may be led to believe that Democrats are on their way to winning a ton of congressional races next November.

Unfortunately, most of their own data just doesn’t support this conclusion, and our own take is an example of two very different views of the same data:

Their View:

“The Republican and Tea Party brands are toxic.”

Our View:

While it’s true both the “The Republican Party” and the “Tea Party” have negative images in this survey, so too does the “The Democratic Party.”  And, “The Democratic Party” actually has a more negative image in Democratic-held districts than it does in Republican-held districts.

So, which “brand” is toxic again?  To me, this data suggests that Obama and Congressional Democrats have moved so far to the left on taxes, spending, health care, and the size and scope of government that voters in some of the more moderate districts held by Democrats are turned off.

Their View:

“Republicans are increasingly out of touch on key budget priorities, including taxes, and voters know it.”

Our View:

When asked who would do a better job with “the budget impasse and spending cuts known as sequester” – voters say Republicans would do a better job than Democrats by a double digit margin.  If Republicans are so “out of touch” on the budget, why do voters in even Democratic-held districts say GOP’ers would do a better job on the budget by a 39-34 margin?

Further, later on in their survey, voters indicate their biggest concern about potential Democratic control of Congress is none other than “Big increases in government spending and higher deficits.”

If I had written the analysis for this survey, I’d say that it’s Democrats who are increasingly out of touch on key budget priorities.

Their View:

“Voters are fed up with the gridlock in Washington and they see Republicans as the main driver of it.”

Our View:

There’s no doubt voters are fed up with what’s going on in the nation’s capital.  Just 28% of voters in these battleground districts believe the country is moving in right direction, with nearly two-thirds (64%) saying things are off on the wrong track.

But, while Democracy Corps says that voters see “Republicans as the main driver” of gridlock, that’s a difficult assumption to make given that no semblance of that question was even asked in the poll.

As long as we’re making inferences from this data, the fact President Obama’s job approval rating is significantly underwater in both Republican (44%-51%) AND Democratic-held districts (43%-52%) suggest to me he deserves the blame for gridlock in Washington.  This seems a much more likely scenario given the positive approval ratings of both Republican House Incumbents (40%-30%) and Democratic House Incumbents (36%-28%).

Their View:

“Voters are looking to implement and improve the health care reform law, not repeal it.”

Our View:

Voters in both Republican-held districts (33%-52%) and Democratic-held districts (34%-47%) have a negative impression of “the new health care law.”  So, even in these Democratic battleground seats, there’s certainly not much love out there for the health care law.

While the view from the left suggests voters don’t want to repeal the law, the actual polling data shows strong majorities of voters (in both Republican AND Democratic seats) believe that a Democrat’s support of the law raises “serious doubts” about them as a candidate.

Bottom Line: 

While there’s quite a bit of time between now and next November, the President’s weak numbers coupled with deep doubts shared about Democrats in these battleground seats does little to suggest the House is in play in 2014.

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