CONGRESS

On Economy, Neither Party Has Voter Edge

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In this May 3, 2011 photo, Samantha Ferrara, 19, waits in line for a job fair to open, in Independence, Ohio. Employers added more than 200,000 jobs in April for the third straight month, the biggest hiring spree in five years. But the unemployment rate rose to 9 percent in part because some people resumed looking for work. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)  
National Journal
Steven Shepard
Nov. 1, 2011, 6:05 p.m.

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Amer­ic­ans trust Demo­crats, by a nar­row plur­al­ity, to do a bet­ter job cop­ing with the na­tion’s ma­jor prob­lems over the next few years, but neither party can claim an edge on the eco­nom­ic or fisc­al is­sues likely to dom­in­ate the 2012 de­bate, the latest United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll shows.

Over­all, 39 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans say they trust Demo­crats more on the main prob­lems the na­tion faces, while 33 per­cent trust Re­pub­lic­ans more. Two per­cent said they trust both parties equally, while 16 per­cent vo­lun­teered that they trus­ted neither Demo­crats nor Re­pub­lic­ans. Ten per­cent were un­de­cided.

The 6-point Demo­crat­ic lead on this ques­tion is just half the party’s ad­vant­age in a Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll from late Ju­ly, when both parties were in the midst of a show­down over wheth­er to raise the fed­er­al debt lim­it. In the pre­vi­ous poll, 43 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans said they trus­ted Demo­crats more, while 31 per­cent said they trus­ted Re­pub­lic­ans.

The Demo­crat­ic slide comes largely from those who identi­fy them­selves as in­de­pend­ents; today, they say they trust Re­pub­lic­ans by a slim, 31-per­cent-to-27-per­cent mar­gin over Demo­crats. More than a quarter of in­de­pend­ents, 28 per­cent, say they trust neither party, al­though that re­sponse was not offered as a choice by the poll’s in­ter­view­ers.

Three months ago, Demo­crats held a 9-point ad­vant­age among in­de­pend­ents, with only 24 per­cent say­ing they trus­ted the GOP more.

The United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll was con­duc­ted by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al from Oct. 27-30, sur­vey­ing 1,002 adults. The poll has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.7 per­cent­age points. The sur­vey in­cluded live tele­phone in­ter­views con­duc­ted via land­line and cell phones. 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 through 2012.

Des­pite Demo­crats’ slight edge over­all, Amer­ic­ans don’t give either side a clear ad­vant­age on the eco­nomy. Forty per­cent said they trust Demo­crats more on the eco­nomy, while 38 per­cent chose Re­pub­lic­ans. In­de­pend­ents tilt Re­pub­lic­an on this ques­tion by 8 per­cent­age points.

Wealth­i­er Amer­ic­ans are more likely to trust Re­pub­lic­ans on eco­nom­ic is­sues. Among those whose 2010 fam­ily in­come was great­er than $75,000,

Re­pub­lic­ans lead by 51 per­cent to 36 per­cent. Demo­crats lead by 44 per­cent to 25 per­cent among those who made less than $30,000 last year. Those mak­ing between $30,000 and $75,000 were al­most evenly di­vided between the two parties.

For nearly two years, the two parties have been vir­tu­ally tied when it comes to the eco­nomy, ac­cord­ing to sep­ar­ate polling con­duc­ted by the Pew Re­search Cen­ter. But from 2004 to 2009, Demo­crats held a sig­ni­fic­ant ad­vant­age on the is­sue.

A CBS News/New York Times poll re­leased last week showed that a ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans ranked the eco­nomy as the No. 1 is­sue fa­cing the coun­try””57 per­cent chose the eco­nomy and jobs as most im­port­ant.

Re­pub­lic­ans also score well on the fed­er­al budget de­fi­cit. Amer­ic­ans prefer them over the Demo­crats by a 4-point mar­gin, and that ad­vant­age jumps to 14 points among in­de­pend­ents. Trends from the Pew Re­search Cen­ter find Re­pub­lic­ans tied with or lead­ing Demo­crats on the de­fi­cit is­sue for most of Barack Obama’s pres­id­ency.

Amer­ic­ans say that Demo­crats would handle the prob­lems in the hous­ing mar­ket bet­ter than Re­pub­lic­ans, by 41 per­cent to 34 per­cent, and they pick Demo­crats to solve the na­tion’s en­ergy prob­lems by an even wider mar­gin, 44 per­cent to 34 per­cent.

Mean­while, des­pite the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s for­eign-policy suc­cesses””in­clud­ing killing Osama bin Laden six months ago and NATO’s cam­paign against former Liby­an lead­er Muam­mar el-Qad­dafi””more Amer­ic­ans trust Re­pub­lic­ans to pro­tect the United States against ter­ror­ism. Re­pub­lic­ans’ lead on ter­ror­ism stands at 41 per­cent to 32 per­cent. Obama’s suc­cesses, in oth­er words, have done little to erase his party’s long-stand­ing dis­ad­vant­age on na­tion­al-se­cur­ity is­sues.

Res­ults un­veiled in Tues­day’s edi­tion of Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily showed the two parties tied on a gen­er­ic con­gres­sion­al bal­lot among a sub­sample of re­gistered voters, and voters are also split between reelect­ing Obama and elect­ing a Re­pub­lic­an chal­lenger.

The poll ex­plored the pub­lic’s feel­ings about di­vided gov­ern­ment, find­ing that nearly half of Amer­ic­ans say it doesn’t mat­ter much either way if the White House and Con­gress are con­trolled by the same party or by dif­fer­ent parties. Slightly more Amer­ic­ans, 26 per­cent, say they prefer it when the pres­id­ent’s party also con­trols Con­gress, while 18 per­cent said it is bet­ter for the White House and Con­gress to be con­trolled by dif­fer­ent parties; 45 per­cent said it doesn’t mat­ter. El­ev­en per­cent had no opin­ion.

Demo­crats were more likely to say they wanted the White House and Con­gress con­trolled by the same party, pre­fer­ring that op­tion to di­vided gov­ern­ment, 36 per­cent to 16 per­cent, with 39 per­cent say­ing it doesn’t mat­ter. Re­pub­lic­ans and in­de­pend­ents were split between one-party rule and di­vided gov­ern­ment, with siz­able plur­al­it­ies say­ing it doesn’t mat­ter much either way.

COR­REC­TION: A pre­vi­ous ver­sion of this story mis­stated the date on which polling began. It began Oct. 27.

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