As you may have seen, Gallup recently released their 2013 State of the States Report, allowing us to examine voters’ attitudes toward the President at the statewide level and thus allowing for greater insight into the political environment in key 2014 Senate states.

By merging data from their daily tracking surveys throughout 2013, Gallup provides a list of President Obama’s average approval ratings in each of the 50 states, along with other political indicators such as party identification, political ideology, and religious identification.  The chart below illustrates these statewide approval ratings, with the yellow bars representing states which are holding a 2014 Senate contest:

chart 1

So, what can we take away from this data?

  • Democrats could not have picked a worse year for Obama’s approval ratings to tank as the Senate map greatly favors Republicans.
    With 21 out of the 36 seats up for election this November currently held by Democrats, they start off the cycle already playing defense.  Only adding to their precarious position is the fact that 28 of the 36 Senate races (78{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) are in states that fall below Obama’s ’13 national approval of 46.5{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}.  And, a mere six races are being contested in a state where Obama’s ’13 approval was higher than 50{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}.
  • Democrats are vulnerable in the states that matter the most.
    Just as no one can fathom Democrats relinquishing a seat in Hawaii, Republican candidates are assumed to sweep traditionally red states like Oklahoma, Idaho, Nebraska, Tennessee, and so on.  Therefore, we look to the “swing states” for answers to our 2014 questions.  Below is where President Obama’s 2013 approval rating was in the top 10 most competitive races categorized in the “Toss Up” or “Lean” category by the Cook Political Report: chart 2
  • Finally, there’s a limit to how far these candidates can run over Obama’s numbers.
    In 2012, only one Democratic Senate candidate outran the President by double-digits.  And, other than North Dakota and Maine, Democratic candidates for Senate in 2012 ran, on average one point BEHIND President Obama’s ballot support.  It’s just not likely that Democrats running in “Toss Up” or “Lean” states are going to be able to run far enough ahead of President Obama’s poor approval ratings to get over 50{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in November.

chart 3

The connection between a President’s approval ratings and the historic outcome of midterm elections is not only well-documented, but also highly relevant as the 2014 election cycle begins to shift into full gear.

Let’s be honest, President Obama’s consistent sub-50{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} approval ratings make it very difficult to fathom a November election where Democrats can advance their standing in the House.  (But, hey, don’t take it from this GOP pollster — many Democrats have already ceded the House:

Bottom line – if President Obama’s approval ratings remain this dismal, BOTH chambers of the Capitol will be painted red come November.

Public Opinion Strategies