The PJ Tatler

GOP Favorable Rating Inches Up, Matches Democrats

Voters still show a negative view toward both parties, but favorable ratings for Republicans have rebounded since the low in October, 2013 following the government shut down.

Gallup reports nearly identical favorable numbers for both parties; 40/57 favorable/unfavorable for Republicans and 42/54 for Democrats.

There are encouraging and discouraging signs for both parties in the latest poll, conducted Sept. 4-7, just two months before the important midterm elections.

Americans have typically rated the Democratic Party more positively than the Republican Party since the question was first asked in 1992, so the current parity between the two is a positive sign for the GOP and a negative one for the Democratic Party. Indeed, current opinions of the Democratic Party are among the worst Gallup has measured in the past 20 years. The only time Gallup measured a lower favorable rating for the Democrats was 41% in late March 2010, just after Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law.

At the same time, Democrats can take some solace in the fact that Americans are not rating the GOP any more positively than they rate the Democratic Party, even at a time when Americans believe the Republican Party is better than the Democratic Party both at keeping the U.S. prosperous and at keeping the U.S. secure from international threats.

The situation is similar to what occurred in 2010. Even as Republicans were making large gains in federal and state offices nationwide, Americans did not view the GOP any more positively than the Democratic Party. As such, the Republicans may have merely benefited from public frustration with Obama and the Democrats in 2010, rather than having been truly embraced by Americans. Thus, if Republicans do well on Election Day this year it does not necessarily equate to a voter mandate for the party and its policies.

All Partisan Groups More Positive toward GOP

The gains, or perhaps recovery, in the GOP’s image over the past year are evident among Democrats, independents, and Republicans. Notably, Republicans’ favorable views of their own party are still not back to pre-shutdown levels.

As would be expected given the stability in overall views of the Democratic Party, the ratings of it by respondents’ political identity are also generally steady over the past 12 months. However, Democrats and independents are less positive toward the Democratic Party than they were in late 2012, after Obama’s re-election.

That “public frustration” of voters in 2010 with Democrats may have turned into something even more dangerous for Democratic prospects in November; fear. The threats we face around the world are causing a lot of concern among voters and given the Republican edge in which party can keep America safer, that may play a significant role when voters make up their mind.

Peter Beinart of the Atlantic writes of the return of the “security moms” and how that favors the GOP:

In August, white women favored a Democratic Congress by four points. Now they favor a Republican Congress by eight.

As in 2002, Democrats are responding by becoming more hawkish. In October 2002, most Democrats in competitive Senate races voted to authorize the Iraq War. Last week, Obama announced a multi-year air campaign against ISIS.

But it doesn’t work. Almost all the imperiled Democrats in 2002 lost anyway. And there’s no evidence that Obama’s new hawkishness is helping him politically either. One reason is that although women are more worried about terrorism than men, they’re actually less supportive of responding with military action. In 2002, women were somewhat more skeptical of invading Iraq. Today, they’re more wary of going after ISIS.

Fundamentally, the Democrats’ terrorism problem with women—especially married white women—isn’t about policy. It’s about trust. In 2002, at a time of heightened anxiety, women trusted a Republican president to keep them safe. In 2014, with that anxiety heightened again, they don’t trust a Democratic president to do the same.

Rather than wondering if “foreign policy” will play a larger role in the campaign, perhaps it’s more accurate to talk about “security” as a general issue where Republicans appear to have the advantage.

In as many close Senate races as we are likely to have, the security issue may be a difference maker in at least some of them.