Poll: Public Likes Democrats Less than Republicans
A new poll for NPR reveals that a majority simultaneously disapprove of President Bush’s handling of the economy and thinks their own economic situation is fine. More interestingly, even though President Bush and the Republicans have very poor approval ratings, the Democrats are doing even worse.
We asked our two pollsters, Democrat Stan Greenberg and Republican Glen Bolger,* to take a look at how the economy was perceived by likely voters; and how those perceptions may affect fortunes at the ballot box 15 months from now.
The survey shows that a majority of likely voters are unhappy with the economy. Only 43 percent of respondents approved of the way President Bush was handling the economy; 53 percent disapproved. Yet when asked about their personal economic well being, respondents were more positive. “We asked them, ‘How about your economic situation?’ and the numbers virtually flipped,” Bolger said.
The survey also asked respondents to rate the political parties overall. Our pollsters asked voters to rate their feelings on a thermometer; with one meaning cold and unfavorable, 100 meaning very warm and favorable. The Democratic Party scored slightly lower than the Republican Party, and several points lower than President Bush. “The fact is, the Democrats are viewed less favorably right now, at a time when Republicans aren’t very popular, when the president’s not very popular,” pollster Greenberg said. He called any Democratic advantage derived from the perception of a weak economy “theoretical.”
The diverging numbers on the economy are not at all uncommon. People generally feel much better about their own economic situation than they do about the economy in general since 1) most people have a job, even during recessions; 2) the news and politicians tend to emphasize the negative.
The Democrat/Republican numbers are more interesting. Partly, I think, they reflect the bifurcated nature of our politics that has existed since the 2000 election cycle, if not the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. The public hates acrimony in politics and desperately want both sides to “get along and do what’s right for the country,” as simplistic as that may be.
The party numbers are even more odd when one looks inside the poll and sees that more people in the same survey say they would vote for the Democrat in the 2006 congressional elections were held today (which, I hasten to add, they will not be). So, they feel “cooler” toward the Democrats but still say they are more likely to vote for them in a generic race.
Complete poll results, in PDF format, are available here
*Full disclosure: Bolger is Managing Partner of Public Opinion Strategies, which employs the FiancÃƒ©.