Congressional Dems could be in big trouble

A new poll finds Congress' approval rating slipping, even among Democrats, and the GOP's gaining ground

By Alex Koppelman

Published October 7, 2009 2:55PM (EDT)

Given their large majorities in both houses of Congress, it seems unlikely that Democrats will lose control of either the Senate or the House next year. But that doesn't mean it'll be an easy fight; in fact, a new poll shows, the Democrats have a real problem to deal with.

A Gallup survey shows Congress' approval rating dropping 10 points since last month. That's due in no small part to a sudden change of heart by Democrats. Last month, 54 percent of respondents who identified as Democrats approved of the job Congress has been doing -- this month, Gallup shows that number as having fallen to 36 percent.

But that doesn't mean Congress can right itself simply by playing to Democrats; independents, too, are becoming ever more disillusioned. Gallup had independents' approval of Congress at 31 percent early in the summer, and at 23 percent last month. This month, it's down to 16 percent.

So now, Gallup says, Republicans have pulled almost even on the generic ballot -- that is, a question that asks respondents, without naming names, whether they'd vote for the Democrat or the Republican in congressional elections next year. 46 percent of those polled said they'd vote Democratic, while 44 percent said they were going with the Republican. These things change when there are actual candidates involved, of course, but that's still not good news -- Gallup notes that this number "is similar to that found in most Gallup readings from 1994 through 2005 (spanning the period when Republicans won control of the U.S. House, and subsequently maintained it for more than a decade)."

Again, the Democrats have a problem with independent voters. Back just before the election last year, the Democrats had a seven percentage point advantage among independents; now, Republicans are in the lead, by nine points.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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