A new Gallup Poll finds that the Democratic party’s image is at an all time low — a spectacular drop in image for a party that had been 11 points ahead of the Republican party last September.
This and other polls seeminglly foreshadow a long – and depressing – night at the polls for Democrats come Nov. 2010:
Americans’ favorable rating of the Democratic Party dropped to 41% in a late March USA Today/Gallup poll, the lowest point in the 18-year history of this measure. Favorable impressions of the Republican Party are now at 42%, thus closing the gap between the two parties’ images that has prevailed for the past four years.
This will likely usher in a debate in coming months if this trend continues.
Did the Democratic party doom itself by tying its fortunes too closely to President Barack Obama’s? Is his popularity (or lack of it in a given week) compartmentalized from this? Is this because the party went too far to the left? Too much business as usual? Health care reform?
Or does it really boil down to the fact that many Americans booted GOPers and hired Democrats to come in and fix the country’s economic mess that occured under George Bush’s watch and the economy is not where they assumed it would be by now?
Or is it a combination of all of these factors — or some of them?
No matter what, the outlook so far does not look good for the Democrats — although all is not lost for them yet:
Gallup last measured party images in late August/early September of last year. At that point, the Democratic Party enjoyed an 11-point favorable image advantage over the Republican Party. Now, the favorable ratings of the two parties are essentially tied.
The images of the two major parties have particular significance in a midterm election year. For example, the favorable rating of the Democratic Party exceeded that of the Republican Party by 52% to 37% just prior to the 2006 midterm elections, in which the Democrats gained 31 House seats.
Americans’ current 41% favorable rating of the Democratic Party is five points lower than the party’s previous low, recorded twice in 2005.
Why is it accurate to say all is not lost for the Dems yet? Because the Gallup poll finds that most of the image change right now is with the Democrats, not the Republicans:
The Democratic Party’s favorable image has dropped among all three partisan groups compared to August/early September 2009. There has been little change by party in the Republican Party’s favorable image compared to the late summer 2009 measure, although the percentage of Republicans with a favorable image of their party remains significantly higher than it was in May 2009.
So right now the GOP isn’t proving to be making coalition-building inroads among voters — as much as the Democrats seem to be letting existing ones crumble.
The questions are a)whether the Democrats can make enough changes to reverse or stem this trend and b)whether segments of the party even want to do that.
With some progressive talkers still raging on and on about no public option in health care reform, if you had to place bets now you’d say the Dems are in for a traumatic election night — unless the Republicans pull defeat from the jaws of victory.
Which they have done by over-reaching and hubris before.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.