Only 27 percent of Americans may have said they think the economy is in an at least decent place right now, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. But, even though 72 percent of the country thinks the economy is rotten, they trust that one party will be better than the other at fixing it.
Except for the 20 percent of voters who trust neither party on at least two out of the seven issues we polled them about from Feb. 27-Mar. 2, 2014. Whether these voters — 59 percent of which are independents — have been watching too much House of Cards or too much of C-SPAN's debt ceiling coverage remains to be seen, but they're leaning toward voting for Republicans in November, 46 to 31 percent.
Voters who could pick a party they trusted on most issues split the other way, leaning toward picking Democratic House candidates this midterm, 50 to 44 percent. That's not a large margin for either camp, and we've only just finished the first primary of the midterm season — there's a lot of room for voters to change their mind. At least for now, though, the small fraction of frustrated voters not wedded in the least to either Democrats or Republicans is thinking about giving the party out of the White House a chance to spruce up the country a bit.
But even if these choosy and dissatisfied Americans don't turn out in November — and the apathetic and unhappy usually aren't among the most ardent voters — the GOP has historically had a midterm advantage in turnout. When there isn't a presidential election to focus the electorate on politics, many Americans tune out, causing a third of the presidential year electorate to vanish and leave only the most informed and politically active to cast ballots in off-years. Those most informed and politically active people are usually older, and generally whiter. And the older and whiter voters are, the more likely they are to vote Republican. That 20 percent of Americans that doesn't trust either party are 75 percent white. The rest of the respondents were 64 percent white. Disgruntled voters are less than half as likely to be black as voters who trust either party, and slightly more likely to be older. Based on demographics alone, it's not surprising these voters are thinking about voting Republican despite their initial reservations about the party. And, based on demographics alone, these voters are more likely to turn out during a midterm.
On top of that, add the fact that second term midterms usually never go well for the party that's held the White House for six years (see 1986, 2006, etc.).
But, there's no certainty that these most displeased of up-for-grabs voters will pad the Republican's built-in advantage this year. Twelve percent of the voters who trust neither party also prefer voting for neither House candidate this election season, while 8 percent have no opinion on the upcoming race in their district. Those people don't sound too apt to vote this year. And since the election is still nearly eight months away, both parties have plenty of time to change their mind, and maybe even make a couple of voters less curmudgeonly in their opinion of politics!
But, even on issues, the least trusting of voters also seem to lean Republican. Forty-four percent would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supported a path to citizenship, compared to 26 percent who would be more likely. Among voters who already trust one part over the other, the difference on this issue is slim; 36 percent would be less likely to vote for an immigration reform supporter, 31 more likely. Among most voters, 58 percent would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports a minimum wage hike, while 18 percent would be less likely. Among disgruntled voters, 38 percent would be more likely, 26 percent less. Forty-seven percent of the disgruntled voters would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supported the Affordable Care Act.
As previously stated, these votes are still fairly up in the air, and after budget negotiations (or lack thereof) voters may change their minds. For now though, add the dissatisfied as hell voters who can't take it anymore to the list of reasons why Republicans have a slight advantage so far this midterm season.
Scott Clement contributed to this post.
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"Texas G.O.P. Beats Back Challengers From Right" — Manny Fernandez, The New York Times