Voters prefer Dems to GOP on generic congressional ballot

A majority of registered voters said they would prefer a generic Democratic candidate for Congress over a Republican in the 2012 elections, according to a new Gallup poll released Friday.

In the wake of a bruising congressional fight over raising the debt ceiling, 51 percent of registered voters said they lean toward electing a Democrat to Congress next fall. Forty-four percent of voters prefer a generic Republican, while 6 percent said they would prefer another party's candidate, or were undecided. 

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Congress's overall popularity has hit an all-time low in the wake of the debt-ceiling debate, which led Standard & Poor's last week to downgrade the U.S.'s AAA credit rating for the first time in history. While the fight hurt both parties, the Gallup poll suggests Republicans are suffering disproportionately.

The poll marks something of a shift toward Democrats compared to June, when an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found Americans split evenly at 44 percent over whether they preferred that Congress be controlled by Democrats or Republicans as a result of the 2012 elections.

In the same Gallup poll released earlier this week, just 24 percent of Americans said most members of Congress deserve reelection.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans are popular in the eyes of the public, but disapproval ratings for Republicans hit an all-time high in a CNN/ORC poll released this week, eclipsing the GOP's previous high unpopularity at the height of the Clinton impeachment. Distaste for the conservative Tea Party movement, which had exerted itself so forcefully in the debt-ceiling debate, also hit an all-time high.

In a similar vein, a larger number of voters said that a candidate for Congress being affiliated with the Tea Party makes them less likely to vote for that candidate. Forty-two percent of registered voters — and 38 percent of independents — said they were less likely to vote for a candidate affiliated with the Tea Party. Thirty percent of voters said the Tea Party made no difference, and 23 percent said they were more likely to vote for a Tea Party candidate.

The public doesn't particularly love Democrats; the party's favorable/unfavorable numbers were tied at 47 percent in the CNN/ORC poll this week. But head to head against the GOP, polls show the advantage has shifted, slightly, toward Democrats.

That point was underscored by a big reversal in the generic ballot for the presidential election. President Obama rebounded against a nameless Republican candidate, retaking the lead after trailing a generic Republican in the past two months' polls. Obama would now beat a nameless Republican, 45-39 percent.

The new Gallup poll, conducted Aug. 4-7, has a 4 percent margin of error.