When politicians fail: A tale of two polls

Two sets of national political polling that came from opposite sides of the partisan divide and yet couldn’t be more alike came across my desk in recent days. They tell us the nation is moving away from Republicans. And because in South Dakota we live in a Republican-dominated state, we have to wonder whether we are being left behind the political tide.

First,  the national numbers courtesy of Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, a firm that works for Republican candidates and for the NBC / Wall Street Journal poll: 

Below, please find the link to our latest NBC/WSJ survey which was just released yesterday. 

We found the Republican party’s rating at an all-time low.  Gallup, whose data goes back further than the 21+ year history of NBC/WSJ, reports the same finding from the generations of data they have compiled. 

Gallup also found the lowest satisfaction level  with the way the nation is being governed ever measured since 1971 when the question was first asked.  NBC/WSJ records a low teens Right Direction – reflecting numbers only seen in 1992 and in 2008. 

NBC/WSJ had only the fifth track in over 20 years where more than 40% of people say they expect the economy will get worse over the next year.  When asked, more than six out of ten Americans say what’s happening in Washington makes them feel less confident about the economy getting better, up sharply from previous 2013 tracks.  This has longer term consequence in terms of building sufficient public confidence to sustain economic growth. 

Other Key Insights from the NBC/WSJ Poll: 

More people than the previous tracks want government to do more,  and while more people continue to say Obamacare is a “bad idea,” the “good idea” number increased back to the levels measured in the summer of 2012.   A majority of people now say they do not want federal funding for the new health care law totally eliminated – up six points from the September track. 

A record high say they would want to vote out every Member of Congress while a plurality disagree with the president’s position to not negotiate with Republicans in Congress until the government is reopened. 

No entity in Washington is spared in terms of this event being corrosive. 

Interestingly, the percentage of people saying they are either a Republican or Democrat dropped below 50% of adults as more people moved to  just lean Republican or lean Democrat. 

We looked at the data in Republican versus Democrat held congressional seats which speaks to the sharp divide of how these seats have been drawn.  For example, the president continues to have a net negative 20 point job approval rating in GOP held seats (37% approve/57% disapprove), but registers a 21 point net positive rating in Democrat-held seats (58%-37%).   The data suggests the GOP held seats are in some ways shielded at the moment from some of these national trends – of course, that would not be true at the statewide level except for the reddest of states. 

Overall, this is among the handful of surveys that stand out in my career as being significant and consequential, so, I wanted to make sure you had an opportunity to review the survey. 

I would also say this about my general experience with this type of data – 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Lehman collapse, debt ceiling in 2011 – once there is this level of movement and change, it takes months for things to settle down in a way that is stable and easier to understand.   This type of data creates ripples that will take a long time to resolve and there will be unexpected changes we cannot predict at the moment as a consequence. 

From a Republican perspective, there is comfort though that the next federal election is a year plus away.   Whether it be the impeachment vote in early 1999 or the use of force votes about Iraq, there have been episodes people assumed would drive the next election, but those votes/events were so far from the election they simply were not a factor by the next election. 

One needs to recognize how important these numbers are about what is, at best, described as unstable terrain. 


And now the Democratic point of view from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, in a nutshell:

By a 16-point margin, 43 to 27 percent, voters blame the Republican in Congress, rather than President Obama and the Democrats, for the government shutdown.

The shutdown had left an already damaged GOP brand in tatters and the party’s electoral prospects wounded.  The party now has a 2:1 unfavorable to favorable rating, 26 percent favorable vs. 52 percent unfavorable (for a net -26 rating).  Among independents their rating is -35.  Democrats don’t fare great either, but with a net -5 rating (39 percent favorable vs. 44 percent unfavorable), they do much better.  Perhaps most important, on the generic ballot, Democrats now lead by double digits, 46 to 36 percent.

Below is the link to the full GQRR memo:


Plenty to think about…

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About Bob Mercer

I am a newspaper reporter in Pierre where I cover state government, issues and politics for the Aberdeen American News, the Black Hills Pioneer, the Mitchell Daily Republic, the Pierre Capital Journal, the Rapid City Journal, the Watertown Public Opinion and the Yankton Press & Dakotan. I began covering the Legislature in 1985 and have lived in Pierre since December 1986. I grew up in Wisconsin, worked my way through college, took my first full-time newspapers jobs in Wyoming, and have lived in South Dakota since the summer of 1984 when I moved to Aberdeen to join the American News. I worked for the Rapid City Journal as its state government reporter in Pierre from late 1992 through late 1998. I spent four years as press secretary and a senior aide to Gov. Bill Janklow during his fourth and final term from late 1998 through 2002. I returned to journalism in January 2003 as a self-employed reporter, providing state government coverage to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre and, depending on the year, Aberdeen newspapers. In 2008, the Aberdeen American News offered to hire me as full-time member of the AAN staff, with my reports continuing to be available to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre, Yankton and Rapid City papers. The new arrangement has been in effect since January 2009 as the seven papers continue their remarkable dedication to their readers and the general public, as the only South Dakota news outlets with a full-time reporter covering state government in Pierre throughout the year. In addition to focusing on the Legislature during the annual winter session and its various activities during the interim periods between sessions, I spend many days throughout the year -- traveling as often necessary -- to cover state government boards and commissions which oversee the state universities, technical institutes, outdoors, water, environment, business, public schools, banking, agriculture, utilities, health care and various other areas of public interest. I purposely don't register to vote because of my profession; the last time I recall voting in a presidential election was the first time, 1976, when I had just turned 18. I think I voted for Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford. Make of that what you want, just don't make much of it.

3 thoughts on “When politicians fail: A tale of two polls

  1. beenthere

    So much of this is fueled by the national liberal media and how they spin the news. The exact same things could be happening in DC and the populace could have a 180 degree difference of opinion based entirely on how the media reports it. To blame Republicans more than Democrats for the government shut down is ludicrous. The Republicans simply don’t have the power to do that. The White House is controlled by a Democrat, and he shut down a portion of the government because he didn’t get his way.

  2. interested party

    So much of this is fueled by the national corporatist media and how they spin the news. The exact same things could be happening in DC and the populace could have a 180 degree difference of opinion based entirely on how the media reports it. To blame Democrats more than earth haters for the government shut down is ludicrous. The progressives simply don’t have the power to do that. The House is controlled by an earth hater, and he shut down a portion of the government because he didn’t get his way.

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