Meet the haters.
We're talking about the voters who've had it with all Washington politicians: President Obama, congressional Republicans and congressional Democrats. Despite their distaste for, well, everyone, when push comes to shove, these voters are lining up squarely behind GOP candidates for Congress.
It's encouraging news for a Republican Party eyeing midterm elections now only about 11 months away. Why? Because it suggests the image problems the party's congressional members have experienced -- which have been worse than those suffered by Obama or congressional Democrats -- don't translate to a death knell at the ballot box.
Seventy-two percent of voters who disapprove of the job Obama, congressional Democrats and congressional Republicans are doing say they'd vote for the GOP candidate for U.S. House in their district if the election were held today, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday. Just 14 percent say they'd vote for the Democrat.
The new findings come as Republicans have erased the generic House ballot advantage Democrats built in the wake of the government shutdown showdown. In October, Democrats held a 48 percent to 40 percent lead among registered voters. Now, because of a big shift among independents, they're only running about even with the GOP, at 47 percent to 45 percent.
So, just who are the haters, and why do their votes matter so much?
They lean heavily Republican. Thirty-four percent identify as Republicans and another 38 percent are independents who lean Republican. Just 13 percent are independents with no lean and just 10 percent are Democrats. Seventy-one percent oppose the federal health-care law.
The haters matter because they constitute a significant and growing share of the electorate, due to sunken approval ratings for both Obama and congressional Republicans. Together they make up about a third (34 percent) of all voters. A month before the 2010 GOP wave election that swept House Democrats from power, the haters constituted only 28 percent of the electorate.
The haters' clear support for Republican candidates means GOP voters' grumbling about its party's maneuverings in Congress -- past polling shows the dissatisfaction is wide-ranging, from seeing the party as too liberal or too conservative -- does not mean they are ready to abandon the party's candidates at the ballot box. Quite the opposite, in fact. These voters will come home in the end, the data suggest.
Democrats may take comfort in the fact that, as unpopular as Obama and congressional Democrats are right now, congressional Republicans are faring even worse. Obama's approval rating is an unimpressive 43 percent, and congressional Democrats are sporting an even more dismal 34 percent approval rating in the new poll among all adults. Still, that's nothing compared to congressional Republicans' lowly 24 percent approval rating.
But here's the thing: Approval rating ≠ what voters decide to do at the ballot box. The haters' alignment with GOP candidates is a testament to that.
The news isn't all bad for Democrats. Republican-leaning voters' poor opinion of their own -- just 39 percent approve of congressional Republicans, compared to 58 percent of Democratic-leaning voters who approve of congressional Democrats -- could complicate GOP incumbents' lives in primaries, which in turn could be good news for Democratic candidates. And the haters don't tilt as heavily toward the GOP now as they did on the eve of the GOP wave election of 2010, when 85 percent said they planned to vote for the GOP candidate.
All told, though, Republicans have to be satisfied to know that, right now, the disappointment their core voters are expressing would give way to support at the ballot box.
In short, haters gonna hate. Republican candidates just may not feel it on Election Day.
Click here to view the full poll results.
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