Republicans Surge in Generic Congressional Poll

A very pleased Rob Autry* notes a new USA Today/Gallup poll that has Republicans moving into a statistical tie with Democrats in a generic congressional preference, trailing only 47%-45% among registered voters. Both Autry and USAT reporters Susan Page and David Jackson point to the recent London terrorist arrests as the likely catalyst.

Gallup Generic Congressional Race (Chart) If one looks at the detailed results, the numbers are actually even better for the GOP. USAT reported the registered voter sample in the piece but they also did a likely voter screen, which they dub “Regular Voters” which they “defined as registered voters who say they ‘always vote’ and who say they voted in the last mid-term election.” In that sample, the GOP was tied 48-48 with the Dems, after trailing 42-50 the previous iteration (28-30 July).

UPDATE: A Crosstabs commenter notes Democratic pollster Mark Blumenthal‘s excellent analysis of the limitations of generic ballot polls from this past May. Most notably:

In another report released in February, Gallup’s David Moore put it more plainly: “Our experience over the past two mid-term elections, in 1998 and 2002, suggests that the [registered voter] numbers tend to overstate the Democratic margin by about ten and a half percentage points.” Similarly, taking a somewhat longer view (“most of the last decade”) Gallup’s Lydia Saad reported last September that “the norm” a five point Republican deficit among all registered voters that “converts to a slight lead among likely voters.” Make “some adjustments” to the generic vote, she wrote, and one can “make a fairly accurate guess about how many seats each party would win.”

Needless to say, that’s even better news for the GOP.

A caveat should also be added: Not only did Gallup sample over three days for this poll, which many pros frown upon since it skews the “snapshot,” but they did two split samples with internal margins of error of +/-5. Only by combining the results do they get down to a more traditional +/-3.

*Disclosures: As noted in several previous posts, Autry is a friend of mine as well as a colleague of my wife’s at Public Opinion Strategies. Saad is also a long-time friend of my wife.

FILED UNDER: 2006 Election, Congress, Public Opinion Polls, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. legion says:

    Unfortunately, both Dems and Repubs poll about 40 points behind “wet dog turd” in Congressional races…

  2. Legion, there is truth in your statement, but there is also truth in the joke about not having to run faster than the bear, just faster than you.

    On the other hand, I think just a little movement by the GOP back to some of its “traditional” values would let it sew up a majority position for a generation.

  3. lily says:

    Why would anyone consider this a good thing? The Republicans of the House are, to a great degree, a collection of fanatics and extremists, overly tied to lobbyists, unable to manage money responsibly and given to vicious partisan attacks instead of thoughtful policy. Sure they’re your team, but if your concern is for the betterment of America, it’s time for your team to lose. Then maybe your team will get some better players.
    Yes I know. some Republicans in the House don’t have any of the above characteristics. Reichert , for example. But they are the outliers, not the norm, in this election season. Padgett and Pombo are far more typical.

  4. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Lily, which Republican is as fanatic and extreme as Nancy Pelosi or Jack Murtha? You have a huge list of goofy Democrats in the house. Please name the Republicans you think are fanatic and extreme. Or is it that you are a fanatic and extreme and anyone who does not share your viewpoint is called names?

  5. Lily,

    Believe it or not, there are those who see the democrats as a worse alternative.

    In terms of “fanatics and extremists” which party recently ousted a three term incumbent from their primary when polls immediately after the primary shows he has above 50% support among the voters of that state. And the senators principle problem in his party? He sees that running away from Iraq would embolden the terrorist and cast doubt among our allies as to whether we would bear any burden and endure any hardship in the war against those who want to kill us.

    Have you looked at the distribution of lobbyist money? Do you see democrats not taking any lobbyist money? Did you miss the article about K-street hiring democratic lobbyist as a hedge against democratic gains in congress. Are you really so naive to think that the democrats would be any better?

    A serious argument can be made on the republicans not being the best stewards of the taxpayers money. But look at how the democrats reacted to the question of social security reform. Do you really expect people to think that a party that can’t even acknowledge the financial problems of an entitlement program like social security is in would be more responsible about fiscal matters?

    If you haven’t seen the rhetoric coming from the left as “vicious partisan attacks” then you are blinded by your own ideology.

    As I commented to legion, its not that the GOP is the best to be hoped for, but they are better than the alternative. Now I would love to see the democrats get their act together and start making positive proposals to problems rather than just obstructing progress. I think it would spur the republicans to improve their act also. But when sadly, as long as you are winning it is common to play down to the level of your opponents. And given the seriousness of the stakes, it is hard for me to justify a “shock” as a good way to spur the republicans on because the unintended consequences of the shock would be to let the worse democrats get there hands on the levers.

  6. Bandit says:

    Lily’s just down because Cynthia McKinney won’t get reelected. See anyone who doesn’t think that Bush blew up the WTC is a fanatic and extremist.

  7. McGehee says:

    Why would anyone consider this a good thing?

    For some reason I’m flashing back to the New York columnist who couldn’t believe Richard Nixon could have been re-elected in 1972, since she didn’t know anyone who voted for him.

  8. Adam Graham says:

    My gut on this is that this year will be like 1998, only in reverse with the Democrats performing a lot more poorly than they thought.

  9. Chris says:

    Comment in violation of site policies deleted.

  10. legion says:

    I see your logic, but I disagree with your conclusions.

    How can you call someone losing a primary the result of “fanatics and extremists”? The majority of the party disagreed with Lieberman strongly enough that they didn’t want him to represent them – end of story. And since when does a primary have anything to do with who polls better among the entire state? I like McCain better than Trent Lott, but I wouldn’t vote for either of ’em in a general election.

    its not that the GOP is the best to be hoped for, but they are better than the alternative

    Before Bush I might’ve bought into that. I’ve voted Repub before when it made sense. But ever since they took over both Congress and the WH… ever since they took a successful campaign to stop terror & protect the US in Afghanistan & turned it into “George’s Long-Ass Spring Break” in Iraq, I’ve been done with them. The GOP has dropped every single tenet it ever held (except for the extreme social conservatism, which I’ve always disagreed with).

    Fiscal responsibility? Gone. I don’t think we need to beat that dead horse here. Small gov’t? Baloney. A gov’t that’s responsive to the people & interferes in their lives as little as possible? Never gonna see it again. Big on personal responsibility? They’ve re-defined the term ‘nanny state’. Strong on defense? No, stupid on defense – a military solution will no more solve Iraq than it did for the Israelis in Palestine, or us in Vietnam; but nobody in the GOP (besides maybe Hagel) is willing to even admit that, let alone actually come up with a plan more worthwhile than “clap louder”.

    You may be rooting for the ‘old’ GOP YAJ, but that party doesn’t exist anymore. This GOP, from the Oval Office on down, can’t admit any possibility of error, so all mistakes become policy. It’s plain to me, and an increasing number of others, that “staying the course” is a sure road to economic, military, and social collapse.

    Do you see democrats not taking any lobbyist money? Did you miss the article about K-street hiring democratic lobbyist as a hedge against democratic gains in congress. Are you really so naive to think that the democrats would be any better?

    This, on the other hand, I totally agree with. Power corrupts. My suggestion would be to just shift the balance of power every so often to keep the lobbyists spending more time trying to figure out who’s in power than influencing them.

  11. Legion,

    To make your case you would have to show that the democrats would be better on fiscal responsibility, small government, a government with minimal interference with in citizens lives, big on personal responsibility or strong on defense. I don’t see any of those areas that the democrats would be better on. They might decide to have a different set of priorities, but they would I think make things worse on all of those fronts. Think about social security reform. The first step to solving a problem is admitting there is a problem. They can’t even get that far. I won’t give the GOP an ‘A’, but relative to the democrats they are ahead.

    The other idea is split government. The problem is split government works best as a means to keep the status quo and keep both parties from raiding the taxpayers money. But we have some very real problems that the government needs to face up to. A split government is to likely to ignore those problems and let them get worse.

    As far as lobbyist goes, I think your suggestion is like trying to cut down on the flies by shifting the outhouse a few feet. Lobbyist can react to switches in congressional majorities much faster than we can switch them. The solution is to go back to a pre-FDR view of congressional powers, thus cutting off the source of the problem, trillions of dollars in the honey pot and the idea that if you can think of it, it can be a law.

  12. lily says:

    Which Republican rep. is as extreme as Pelosi? Well I named two. Pelosi isn’t extreme. Her positions are well in line with what opinion polls indicate are mainstream ideas. Judge the Republicans of the House by their actions: the interference with Terri Schiavo’s medical treatment, the mismanagement of the budget, the destruction of Medicare, the attempts, against the public will to “fix’ Social Security, the interference with the FDA on issues like Plan B, the refusal to acknowledge global warming as a problem…on and on and on. I’m glad Cynthia McKinney is out and I wish Jefferson was, too. The fact, however, remains that in the issues–Social Security, environmental law, Medicare and Medicaid, the federal budget, access to birth control, maintenance of access to abortion (within some restrictions) and yes, even a plan for withdrawing troops from Iraq, it is the Republicans who are out of step with the majority of public opinion, as measured by opinion polls, not the Democrats.
    The statement that Democrats are worse is just a statement of partisanship, not a comparison of positions on policy, history of behavior, or assessment of current number of legal actions