The latest Democracy Corps survey of the Republican House battleground seats confirms that 2012 will be an explosive year. These Republicans swept into Washington on the tide of a change wave but are now facing what could be a change election with an even higher wave, and these seats are anything but secure. The difference from the last three elections is that this wave seems to be threatening everything in its path.
This is obviously not the best moment to judge the Democrats’ eventual fortunes—with fewer voters identifying as Democrats, with Democrats themselves less enthusiastic about the president, and with his overall approval rating down 7 points and losing independents in these districts. We do not yet know the public’s reaction to the president’s latest initiatives, but there is reason to believe they can help him and the Democrats here.
Whatever else is happening on the Democratic side, the bigger story is the growing vulnerability of the incumbent House Republicans. The mood of the country is deeply pessimistic and voter anger encompasses the Republicans as well, particularly the new House members. This survey in these mostly Obama-2008 districts does not ask generic questions but asks about the incumbent members by name.
- Negative personal feelings about the incumbent members have jumped 10 points since March; disapproval of how he or she is handling the job has jumped 7 points.
- The percent saying they “can’t re-elect” is up 4 points to 49 percent - compared to just 40 percent who say they “will re-elect because the incumbent is doing a good job and addressing issues important to voters.” This is substantially worse than the position of Democratic incumbents two years ago.
- Among independents, disapproval of incumbent Republican House members jumped 12 points, and a large majority of independents (54 to 37 percent) say they “can’t vote to re-elect” the incumbent.
- There has been a 9-point rise in the number saying the incumbent will not work with both parties to get things done; a 6-point rise in the number saying their representative does not fight for people in the district.
- While the incumbent Republicans are at 50 percent in the named ballot, a slight improvement since March, the gains were produced almost entirely by consolidation of Republicans. They did not improve their vote position with independents.
- Attacks on the Republicans in this balanced survey have a dramatic impact on the position of these incumbents. After the attacks and messages—with Medicare figuring centrally—the race for Congress is dead even at 45 to 45 percent. One in ten voters shifts away from these vulnerable incumbents.
Written by Stanley Greenberg, James Carville, and Erica Siefert for Democracy Corps.