Six months out from the November midterm election,
The latest Pew Research Center poll shows that 47% of registered voters say they plan to vote for a Republican candidate or lean that direction compared with 43% who say they support or lean toward the Democrats.
Republicans have a particularly strong lead with groups of voters who tend to turn out in midterm elections, according to the poll, which was done for USA Today. Men 50 and older, for example, lean toward the GOP, 55% to 37%.
Republicans also have a 50%-39% lead among voters in the South, where several of the most hotly contested
Much can change in six months, of course. Half a year ago, Republicans were struggling with a public backlash against the
That question, known as a generic ballot, has a mixed record as a forecasting tool. In 2006, Democrats had a 10-point generic ballot lead in the spring and went on to make major gains. In 2010, the parties were roughly even on the generic ballot and Republicans won a big victory.
Other questions that probe voter motivations, which may provide better indicators, also point toward GOP gains this year. Just over half the voters in Pew's poll, for example, said that when deciding whom to vote for, one factor would be which party they want to control Congress. Much as in 2010, Republican voters were considerably more likely than Democratic supporters to say that partisan control of Congress mattered to them. In 2006, the opposite was true.
Similarly, 43% of voters say they view their midterm ballot at least partially as a vote for or against President
Opposition to Obama’s
The current division, 55% disapproving and 41% approving, is almost identical to the one last September, before the law's rollout.
One reason that actual experience with the law hasn't changed more views is that broad political philosophy rather than people's personal situations appears to undergird both opposition and support.
Among those who oppose the law, 42% said their most important reason is that it represents "too much government involvement in healthcare." Only 14% cited the law's requirement that all people obtain health coverage, the so-called individual mandate. An even smaller group, 12%, said their main reason was fear that their own healthcare would suffer.
Supporters of the law offered similarly broad factors behind their position, giving as their chief reasons the expansion of coverage to the uninsured (39%) or the assurance that people could not be denied coverage because of a preexisting medical problem (35%). Only 6% cited a possible improvement in their own health coverage.
Despite disapproval of the law, Americans were more likely to say they have confidence in Obama and Democratic leaders to handle healthcare policy correctly than they have in Republican leaders.