51% favor Republicans for Congress, poll finds

By Jon Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 31, 2010; A2

Pollsters offered some more glum news for Democrats on Monday night: Republicans have their biggest lead ever on the question of which party voters would support for Congress. Gallup's "generic ballot" - a staple of election prognostication - shows Republicans with a double-digit advantage.

In the latest Gallup polling, 51 percent of registered voters say they would vote for the GOP candidate in their district if the election were held today; 41 percent say they would support the Democrat. That represents the biggest such lead for the Republicans in Gallup polls back to 1942, and it marks the fourth straight week they have had the edge on the Democrats, who are seeking to retain control of the House and Senate.

Before this year, the largest-ever GOP lead in Gallup polls was five points. That occurred in 1994 and 2002, both years in which Republicans picked up significant numbers of congressional seats.

If history holds, this Republican advantage will increase once Gallup and other pollsters switch to measuring likely voters from registered to vote. Election analysts typically narrow their focus as Election Day nears to those most likely to vote, and registered Republicans are often more likely to vote than those who are signed up as Democrats.

Democrats have led on the Gallup generic ballot this year, and might again as voters start to pay closer attention to the campaigns after Labor Day - the traditional start of the election homestretch.

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