The Week in Polls: Republicans will take the House, but the Senate is tougher

Voters agree with pollsters that Republicans have a chance to take over the House this fall while Democrats are likely to retain the Senate.

A Public Policy Poll (PPP) out Wednesday found that 46 percent of registered voters think the GOP will control the lower chamber after the election, while 32 percent think it will not.

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Breaking that down by party is even more telling: Seventy-four percent of Republican voters think their party will control the House, while only 22 percent of Democrats believe that of their side.

PPP’s Tom Jensen writes that those numbers show “Republican voters are extremely optimistic about their party's prospects for this fall and that may be part of what is driving the high level of enthusiasm on their side.”

The PPP numbers are on track with Gallup’s figures from earlier this week that showed Republicans regaining their lead over Democrats in the weekly generic congressional ballot.

The generic congressional ballot can be a strong indicator of voters' moods. The Gallup survey found 48 percent preferred Republicans over 43 percent for Democrats.

The numbers have been volatile, however. Last week, the two parties were tied after five weeks during which Republicans held a clear lead. The week before last, Republicans held a 51-41 advantage over Democrats.

An Associated Press-GfK poll out Wednesday gave Republicans an even bigger lead, finding voters preferred them by 55 percent to 39.

Rasmussen Reports' congressional tracking poll shows a similar trend. This week it found Republicans held a nine-point lead, down from 12 the week before.

Rasmussen notes in its analysis: “While the margin has varied somewhat from week to week, Republicans have been consistently ahead in the generic ballot for over a year.”

One possible problem for Republicans was suggested by a CBS/New York Times poll out Thursday, which showed the party in Congress has a higher disapproval rating with the public. The survey found 68 percent of registered voters disapprove of congressional Republicans, while 58 percent disapprove of Democrats.

The same poll found Democrats just two points behind Republicans in the generic congressional ballot.

The New York Times analysis noted: “The mood of the country is similar in many respects to the fall of 1994, when Republicans swept control of Congress. There is an overall low congressional approval, large numbers of Americans who believe the country is on the wrong track and soaring discontent among voters with their own representative in Congress. It is that particular finding in the poll that underscores the true depths of the disgruntlement among the public and is an ominous sign for Democrats.”

Political prognosticators continue to see the House going Republican.

The Cook Political Report’s Charlie Cook noted on Tuesday that unless a large number of Republicans took “stupid pills every morning,” the odds of them winning the House are “very high.”

That could be because of voter frustration, however, instead of Republican policies.

A Congressional Connection poll surveyed voters on various policy issues and found that "Americans offer tepid support for much of the Republican Party's domestic agenda.”

AP, analyzing its AP-GfK poll, concluded: “For now at least, Republicans are simply selling themselves as something other than the status quo. And, if the antiestablishment results of the primary season are any measure, it may just work.”

Control of the Senate is another matter.

The Public Policy Poll found a much smaller margin of voters, 40-36, thinking Republicans would take over the upper chamber. And that poll was done before Tuesday’s Delaware Senate primary, where Tea Party-backed candidate Christine O’Donnell defeated the party-backed favorite.

After that result, many pundits shifted the race from "likely Republican" to "likely Democrat" and concluded that Republicans' chances of getting the 10 seats they need to win a Senate majority are in danger.

Pollster.com’s Mark Blumenthal noted the trend, writing Wednesday that “the surprise result in the Delaware Republican primary had a much bigger impact on the GOP's chances of taking control of the Senate this year.”

Charlie Cook wrote that “with Delaware off the board for the GOP, the possibility that they can net the 10 seats needed to win the majority becomes significantly harder. While it is still mathematically possible, winning Delaware was an important part of the equation.”

And PPP’s Jensen wrote in his analysis, “American voters have come to pretty much the same conclusion as the pundit class: Republicans will take control of the House but not the Senate.”

Wednesday’s Public Policy Poll also reflected the conservative mood that has seen Tea Party candidates triumph in seven Republican Senate primaries. The survey found that only 41 percent believe there is a place for moderates in the GOP.

Jensen found that noteworthy. He wrote: “If I was a Republican senator up for reelection in 2012 right now who was anywhere to the left of Tom Coburn I'd be getting very nervous about my renomination chances. … And one thing that was made clear by Christine O'Donnell's victory is that in this political climate you don't even have to be a particularly good candidate to catch fire and bump out someone who's perceived as being too liberal.”

The AP-GfK poll had a similar finding: Forty percent of likely voters called themselves Tea Party supporters.

The AP wrote in its analysis of those voters: “Most of them lean toward Republicans while nearly two-thirds have a deeply negative impression of Democrats. That means the GOP could be in strong shape on Nov. 2 if Tea Party backers turn out and vote Republican. That's what they've been doing so far this year: The grassroots, antiestablishment movement can claim wins in at least seven GOP Senate races, a handful of Republican gubernatorial contests and dozens of House primary campaigns.”

Looking at individual races, one poll that stood out was CNN/Time’s survey of the Nevada Senate race.

The poll found that Republican candidate Sharron Angle led Senate Majority Leader Harry (D) by one point, which is the first non-Rasmussen poll since the June primary to find Reid trailing, according to Nevada political expert Jon Ralston.

Numbers have been close in this race, but most polls from news organizations had Reid leading by a couple of points.

Ralston wrote Wednesday, “Reid being up a couple of points or in a dead heat in these models means he is probably doing pretty well.”

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist got some bad news Wednesday. A Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Republican candidate Marco Rubio with a big lead in the three-way race for Senate. Rubio was supported by 40 percent of likely voters, while Crist had 26 percent and Democrat Kendrick Meek had 21.

In its analysis, Reuters notes a possible reason for Rubio’s surge: “Rubio appears to be landing knockout punches bashing [President] Obama.”

Crist led in early polling on the race, but Rubio has seen his numbers climb steadily all summer.

And Rasmussen, a Republican-leaning firm, moved Ohio’s Senate race from toss-up to leans-Republican on Tuesday. The Cook Report also has the race as leans-Republican.

Republican candidate Rob Portman has consistently led Democrat Lee Fisher in most polling on the race.