By Sean J. Miller and Emily Goodin - 10/06/10 09:55 AM EDT
Two-thirds of voters in key battleground districts will be thinking about President Obama when they choose their next member of Congress, according to a 2010 midterm election poll from The Hill and ANGA.
The poll surveyed likely voters in 12 competitive congressional districts held by first-term Democratic lawmakers who came into office with the president in 2008.
“All politics is local, but not all voting,” said pollster Mark Penn of Penn Schoen Berland, which conducted the poll.
“I think, without question, people view this as a national election,” Penn said. “The strongest thing working against the administration today is the number of people dissatisfied with the economy and the government and who are willing to take their votes and vote on a national basis rather than on the merits of the individual candidate.”
One telling finding is that only 42 percent of respondents said they recalled voting for Obama in 2008 even though the president received, on average, 53 percent of the vote in those districts.
Pollsters said that finding could indicate voter remorse, which may reflect a major drop in enthusiasm for the president. Another explanation may be that many of those who supported Obama in 2008 are unlikely to vote this year.
“There’s a good percentage of people in the midterms, I think between 20 and 30 percent, who really vote more on the national situation and scene and produce most of the swing in congressional races,” Penn said.
White House officials indicated Tuesday that they’re aware of the need to engage voters on a national level. The president and first lady Michelle Obama will spend next week working to boost enthusiasm among the key voting blocs.
Obama is focused particularly on motivating younger voters, a group that went for him overwhelmingly in 2008. He will appear in a televised town-hall meeting next Thursday that will air on MTV and other stations that attract young voters.
The administration is also trying to enthuse the grass roots. On Tuesday, the first lady sent out an e-mail to Organizing for America (OFA) supporters, the same group that helped her husband gather a large number of activists during his presidential campaign. She will participate on a conference call with OFA supporters on Wednesday.
National polls have shown the president getting low marks from voters, and The Hill/ANGA poll found similar results in the individual congressional districts: 55 percent said they disapprove of the job the president is doing, while 42 percent approve.
But there is some positive news for the administration. Penn said there are three factors voters will have on their minds when they go to vote, and Obama is only one of them.
“They’re voting against Congress as it’s constituted now, because they gave Congress extremely low ratings — in the teens,” Penn said. “Second, they said they’re taking their view of the president into account. Third, they registered disapproval with things like healthcare, so I think they’re taking all of those things with them into the ballot box.”
Of the voters surveyed, 76 percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing, while 20 percent approve.
Of the 12 races polled, Obama could be a decisive factor in four of them.
Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio) is trailing by 9 percent in a district Obama carried by nine points in 2008. While 91 percent of Democrats said they approve of the president’s performance, 59 percent of independents disapprove — the same voters who are backing Republican Steve Stivers by almost a 2-to-1 margin.
Obama may also prove to be an albatross for Rep. Tom Perriello (D) this cycle. A majority of voters in Virginia’s 5th District disapprove of the president’s performance and, by a 3-to-1 ratio, respondents said their opinion of Obama will influence their vote this November.
Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) could also have a hard time closing the gap against Republican Joe Heck because of the president. Obama has a negative approval rating with men and women of all ages in the district.
Meanwhile, in Michigan’s 7th District, independents leaned strongly Democratic in 2008, with 50 percent of them voting for Obama and only 33 percent voting for Republican nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.).
This fall, however, independents are split — 35 percent support Rep. Mark Schauer (D-Mich.), while 37 percent support his challenger, Republican Tim Walberg. About a fifth of the independents are undecided.
Jordan Fabian contributed to this article.
The Hill/ANGA 2010 Midterm