Gallup Poll: GOP gaining on Dems for control of Congress

Forty-six percent of voters still prefer a Democratic candidate, compared with 44 who'd go for a Republican, Gallup says. But the Dems' margin was bigger in July.

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The battle for control of Congress in 2010 is growing more competitive, a new Gallup Poll indicates.

Roughly a year before the 2010 congressional elections, Republicans and Democrats are nearly tied among registered voters, who were asked which party’s candidate they would prefer in their congressional district, Gallup found. Some 46 percent said they would vote Democratic, versus 44 percent who favored a Republican candidate. The Democrats’ two-percentage-point lead in October is down from a six-point advantage in July.

Independents shift to the GOP

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The Republican Party’s relatively strong position on the generic ballot, in which no candidate is mentioned by name, “stems from the support of political independents, who now favor Republican over Democratic candidates by 45 to 36 percent,” wrote Gallup analyst Lydia Saad.

The issue for Democrats is how many seats they lose in the midterm election and what that does to President Obama’s ability to move legislation through Congress. Charlie Cook, of National Journal’s Cook Political Report, recently wrote that there is “a consensus forming that the chances of Democratic losses going higher than 20 seats [in the House] is just as good as the chances of Democratic losses going lower than 20 seats.” That would not necessarily turn House control over to Republicans, but would make it tougher for the Obama administration to pass its legislative agenda.

Meager approval ratings

Americans’ dim view of the job Congress is doing is an additional signal that the 2010 elections could be challenging for Democrats, Gallup says. Congressional approval now stands at 21 percent, down from 31 percent in September and 39 percent in March. The Gallup polling data are from a survey conducted Oct. 1- 4 among 1,013 adults and has a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

“It appears that any honeymoon period for the 111th Congress has eroded,” writes Gallup Poll editor in chief Frank Newport. Today’s congressional approval levels are “significantly below” the average 36 percent rating over the past two decades, he notes.

There is one bright spot for Democrats in recent polling data. A new Associated Press poll found that Barack Obama’s approval ratings have started to rise after a continuous slide since his inauguration. AP said 56 percent of the 1,003 adults it surveyed Oct. 1- 5 approve of the president’s job performance, up from 50 percent in September. It is the first increase in his approval figures since January.

A mixed message

Some 39 percent disapproved of Obama’s performance in October, down from 49 percent last month. According to the AP, people feel better about Obama’s handling of the economy and his proposed healthcare overhaul, but not about the war in Afghanistan.

There is a major partisan divide in the president’s approval numbers, with 88 percent of Democrats happy with his performance but only 12 percent of Republicans satisfied with it.

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