If Good Policies are Good Politics, Prepare for a GOP Election

The tea leaves are clear: It is going to be a very good Republican cycle.

Underlying every election cycle is the basic underpinning of the issue agenda and which party is perceived as being able to better handle the key issues.

Pollsters keep getting asked for the “one number” that tells the story of an election cycle and where it’s headed before the votes get cast and counted.

The “one number” standard is hard, but here is one for this cycle: Republicans enjoy a 10 point edge as the political party best able to handle “dealing with the economy” (36% Republicans would handle better, 26% the Democrats would handle better).

Margins matter in polling and in who wins the campaign. We are in an election where the number one issue is the economy, and Republicans have their widest election year edge on this question since July of 1994 (oh, that’s right, another pretty terrific Republican year!).

Which party is better at “dealing with the economy” is generally quite competitive between the two parties and typically within a single-digit margin. The Democrats enjoyed double-digit advantages on this issue from November 2005 through July 2008, which was their high water mark on this question and preceded elections in which they made significant gains in the House. So, it is significant that Republicans have enjoyed a double-digit advantage on the economy for two tracks in a row, which is without precedent in the NBC-WSJ polling history, which dates to October 1991.

To illustrate that point, here is a table from NBC/WSJ data that compares the Republican net margin this month to the pre-election averages in Republican sweep elections (1994 and 2010) and to Democratic sweep elections (2006 and 2008).

When it comes to dealing with the economy, which party do you think would do a better job?
Republicans
Would be Better
Democrats
Would be Better
Net Difference
September 2014 36% 26% R +10%
Average in Republican Sweep Elections 30% 26% R +4%
Average in Democratic Sweep Elections 27% 41% D +14%

 

This pattern of Republicans being in roughly as good or better shape than previous Republican sweep elections is clear across multiple issues.

When it comes to reducing the federal deficit, which party do you think would do a better job?
Republicans
Would be Better
Democrats
Would be Better
Net Difference
September 2014 39% 21% R +18%
Average in Republican Sweep Elections 30% 26% R +4%
Average in Democratic Sweep Elections 20% 40% D+ 20%

 

When it comes to dealing with the foreign policy, which party do you think would do a better job?
Republicans
Would be Better
Democrats
Would be Better
Net Difference
September 2014 41% 23% R +18%
Average in Republican Sweep Elections 36% 13% R +23%
Average in Democratic Sweep Elections 27% 36% D +9%

 

When it comes to dealing with immigration, which party do you think would do a better job?
Republicans
Would be Better
Democrats
Would be Better
Net Difference
September 2014 35% 28% R +7%
Average in Republican Sweep Elections 30% 25% R +5%
Average in Democratic Sweep Elections 24% 27% D +3%

 

This pattern continues as even on core Democratic issues such as health care and the environment, Democrats’ margins are at low ebb, even below the average in previous Republican sweep elections.

When it comes to dealing with health care, which party do you think would do a better job?
Republicans
Would be Better
Democrats
Would be Better
Net Difference
September 2014 31% 39% D +8%
Average in Republican Sweep Elections 26% 37% D +11%
Average in Democratic Sweep Elections 16% 47% D +31%

 

When it comes to protecting the environment, which party do you think would do a better job?
Republicans
Would be Better
Democrats
Would be Better
Net Difference
September 2014 15% 42% D +27%
Average in Republican Sweep Elections 14% 45% D +31%
Average in Democratic Sweep Elections 11% 49% D +38%

 

The Democrats are getting no traction on their core issues such as health care and the environment. Republican advantages across a number of issues are at or exceed the previous net margin in past Republican sweep elections. Fundamentally, Democrats face a difficult November as they are pinned down and at an historic low as voters turn to the Republican party as being best able to deal with the economy.

The data in this blog post is from NBC/Wall Street Journal polling conducted by Democratic pollster Fred Yang and me. This analysis is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of NBC, The Wall Street Journal, or Hart Research Associates.

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