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Republicans making gains against Democrats ahead of midterm elections

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With Democrats facing dismal prospects in the November elections, the party is weighing President Barack Obama's role in the midterms.

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Independents' disapproval of the president has reached an all-time high, with 57 percent giving him negative marks. About 61 percent of independents say Obama has not brought change to Washington. Nearly half now consider him "too liberal" ideologically.

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Overall, by a 13-point margin, independent voters say they would support Republican over Democratic candidates in their House districts. A majority of independents - 59 percent - say they would prefer to have Republicans in charge of Congress to serve as a check on the president's agenda.

Just 34 percent of all voters - and 27 percent of independent voters - say most Democrats in Congress deserve to be reelected. Four years ago, a month before Democrats won control of the House, 55 percent of all voters said most Democratic representatives deserved another term.

Still, voters are just as unenthusiastic about Republican incumbents. Barely 31 percent of all voters and independents alike say most GOP lawmakers have earned another term.

Nor do many voters credit the opposition with a distinct message: Forty-five percent say Republicans are offering the country a clear direction that is different from that of the Democrats, while 48 percent say they are not.

Negative views of the federal government have jumped higher this year, with 78 percent of voters saying they are dissatisfied or angry about the way Washington works. That's more anti-government sentiment than at any point in 1994, when Republicans won back control of Congress, and the most to say so since the fall of 1992.

Deteriorating views of the economy are a prime culprit. Since June, there has been an eight-point jump in the number of Americans who think the economy is worsening and a parallel six-point slide in the number who say things are improving. Fifty-three percent say the economy is in "poor" shape, the first time a majority has said so since early April.

The survey was completed before the release of Friday's jobs report, which showed the unemployment rate ticking up to 9.6 percent but also somewhat better-than-expected growth in private-sector jobs.

A third of all Americans say Obama's policies are making things worse economically, up seven points from April to its highest level. And the number who point the finger at Obama for economic stagnation is also on the rise, with 42 percent saying the administration deserves a great deal or a good amount of blame for the state of the economy, up 15 points from a year ago.

Democrats can point to the even higher numbers of people who continue to blame the George W. Bush administration for the country's economic problems, although that number - 60 percent - is creeping downward.

The poll was conducted by telephone Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. Results from the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

balzd@washpost.com cohenj@washpost.com

Assistant polling analyst Kyle Dropp contributed to this report.


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