Americans are losing faith in congressional Republicans, according to a new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll that underscores President Obama’s strategy as he presents his priorities on Tuesday night in his annual State of the Union address and prepares to mount his reelection campaign.
And there is some evidence that the strategy is working: More voters polled say they would rather see Obama reelected over a Republican opponent—and Democrats win control of the House of Representatives—in November.
On the central issues before Congress this year and voters this November, Obama has moved ahead of Republican legislators over the past four months, according to the poll. Asked to choose whom they trusted more between Obama and congressional Republicans “to develop solutions to the country’s economic challenges,” 41 percent preferred Obama and 29 percent picked the Hill GOP. More than 20 percent of Americans said they trust neither Obama nor the GOP, however.
Americans were split in a Congressional Connection Poll conducted last September, with 37 percent saying they trusted Obama more and 35 percent choosing the Republicans.
The United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, which surveyed 1,002 adults by landline and cellular phone Jan. 19-22. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points. The margin of error for the subsample of 773 registered voters is +/- 4.1 points.
The poll is the latest in a series of national surveys that will track the public’s priorities for Congress—and its assessment of Washington’s performance—during most weeks that Congress is in session this year.
Americans have also shifted on whom they trust more “to make the right decisions about how to reduce the federal budget deficit,” with 42 percent backing Obama and 33 percent picking congressional Republicans. A quarter of respondents said that they trusted neither or were undecided. Last September, Americans narrowly preferred GOP lawmakers to Obama, 38 percent to 36 percent.
The drop in trust in congressional Republicans on the economy and the deficit reflects an overall collapse in confidence in the federal government. Only 31 percent of Americans say they have “a lot” or “some” confidence that the government “will make progress over the next year on the most important problems facing the country,” while two-thirds say they do not have “much confidence” or have “no confidence at all.”
The results are similar to those from a Congressional Connection Poll conducted last month that also portended another volatile election for the nation as Americans remain pessimistic about their government’s capacity to work together to revive a U.S. economy that’s been battered by recession and the financial crisis.
Meanwhile, Obama and Democrats have made significant gains in their election prospects this year among registered voters, the poll shows.
Forty-eight percent of voters would rather see Obama reelected next year, compared to 40 percent who would prefer that a Republican win the presidency; a combined 12 percent of voters said they would prefer neither scenario or are undecided. A Congressional Connection Poll conducted in late October found voters split, with 44 percent preferring the GOP candidate and 42 percent favoring Obama’s reelection.
A plurality of voters, 48 percent, now say they would prefer that Democrats win enough seats take control of the House, compared with 37 percent who would rather see Republicans maintain control. In late October, the two parties were virtually tied on that question, with Democrats holding a statistically insignificant 2-point advantage.
Combining the results, 39 percent of voters would prefer that Obama is reelected and Democrats win control of the House; 31 percent want a Republican to win the presidency and the GOP to keep the House; 5 percent would rather have a Republican president but a Democratic-controlled House; and 3 percent of voters want the current occupants to retain control of both the White House and House.
The poll shows Democrats performing better among independent voters. Obama leads among this key group by 5 points, and independents preferred a Democratic-controlled House by an 8-point margin.
But Obama still trails by 11 percent among white voters—equaling his performance among this group in the previous poll and in line with his margin of defeat among whites in 2008, according to exit polls. The president has gained in support among nonwhite voters, three-quarters of whom would now rather see him win reelection. Last October, just 60 percent of all nonwhite voters said they preferred his reelection.
Obama is expected to use Tuesday night’s State of the Union address to focus on issues affecting the middle class, casting the GOP as the party of the wealthiest Americans. He runs strongest among low- and middle-income voters, according to the new poll, with 54 percent of those making less than $30,000 a year and 53 percent of those making between $30,000 and $75,000 a year favoring his reelection. Meanwhile 47 percent of voters making more than $75,000 a year would rather a Republican win the presidency, compared with 42 percent who prefer Obama be reelected.
Obama’s address before a joint session of Congress also comes amid the backdrop of a reshuffled race for the GOP’s presidential nomination. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s rout of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in South Carolina last week could lead to a long, protracted fight, which would allow the White House to maintain its fire on increasingly unpopular congressional Republicans through early spring.
This article appears in the Jan. 24, 2012, edition of National Journal Daily.