With Data Like This, It’s No Surprise Democrats Are Taking A Pass On 2010.

The New Year has brought with it a flurry of announcements from Democrats who say they’d rather retire than fight on in 2010. Hardly a surprise when you consider the public sentiment we’re measuring in the NBC/WSJ poll.

Over the course of 2009 the image of the Democratic Party slipped steadily from an 18-point net positive high in February (49{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} positive/31{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} negative) to a 10-point net negative low in December (35{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} positive, 45{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} negative). In fact, this negative score of 45{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} is as high as we have ever measured since tracking on this question began a generation ago in 1990.

I should be fair and point out that the Republican Party image held at a steady double-digit net negative throughout the year, finishing in December at 28{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} positive/43{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} negative. So, it’s not like Republicans are in favor with voters either. But, for the Democrats to have plummeted so dramatically is certainly worrisome for the party in power.

Although he’s not on the ballot this year, President Obama’s job approval does matter in November. Historically, we know that when a president’s approval rating is in the 40{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-49{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} range it usually means a major double-digit shift in the House – an average of 41 seats in mid-term elections since 1962. Obama finished 2009 with a rating of 47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} approve/46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove, and a 10-point net negative rating among the all-important sub-group of Independents (40{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} approve/50{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove).

This gloomy data for Democrats is reinforced further when you consider the generic Congressional ballot is as close as we’ve measured since October 2004. Voters are almost dead even with 41{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} expressing a preference for Republicans to control Congress and 43{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} preferring a Democrat-controlled Congress.

However, among the voters who are most interested in the 2010 elections (rating a “9” or a “10” on a ten point scale where “10” means very interested) there is an 8-point preference for a Republican-controlled Congress (47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Republican control/39{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Democrat control).

And, most importantly, the energy and enthusiasm is all on the Republican side with 62{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} saying they are very interested in the 2010 elections compared to 53{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Democrats.


In 1994 Republicans picked up 52 seats in the House, and in 2006 Democrats picked up 30 House seats. If the public continues its bleak outlook on the party in power, 2010 may well be another landmark sweep election – this time back toward the Republicans.

 *All data provided from NBC/WSJ national surveys of adults conducted in 2009. Congressional control data provided among 910 registered voters.

(Public Opinion Strategies partners with Peter D. Hart Research Associates to conduct the NBC/WSJ polls. Neither Peter D. Hart Research Associates nor NBC/WSJ are responsible for these conclusions.)



Public Opinion Strategies