Critical parts of the coalition that delivered President Obama to the White House in 2008 and gave Democrats control of Congress in 2006 are switching their allegiance to the Republicans in the final phase of the midterm Congressional elections, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
Republicans have wiped out the advantage held by Democrats in recent election cycles among women, Roman Catholics, less affluent Americans and independents. All of those groups broke for Mr. Obama in 2008 and for Congressional Democrats when they grabbed both chambers from the Republicans four years ago, according to exit polls.
If women choose Republicans over Democrats in House races on Tuesday, it will be the first time they have done so since exit polls began tracking the breakdown in 1982.
The poll provides a pre-Election Day glimpse of a nation so politically disquieted and disappointed in its current trajectory that 57 percent of the registered voters surveyed said they were more willing to take a chance this year on a candidate with little previous political experience. More than a quarter of them said they were even willing to back a candidate who holds some views that “seem extreme.”
On the issue most driving the campaign, the economy, Republicans have erased the traditional advantage held by Democrats as the party seen as better able to create jobs; the parties are now even on that measure. By a wide margin, Republicans continue to be seen as the party better able to reduce the federal budget deficit.
The public wants compromise from both sides, though it thinks Mr. Obama will try to do so more than Republicans will. Yet for all of its general unhappiness, the electorate does not seem to be offering any clear guidance for Mr. Obama and the incoming Congress — whoever controls it — on the big issues.
While almost 9 in 10 respondents said they considered government spending to be an important issue, and more than half said they favored smaller government offering fewer services, there was no consensus on what programs should be cut. There was clear opposition to addressing one of the government’s biggest long-term challenges — the growing costs of paying Social Security benefits — by raising the retirement age or reducing benefits for future retirees. Support for one of Mr. Obama’s main economic proposals — raising taxes on income above $250,000 a year — has declined substantially over the course of this year.
Though Republicans have managed to keep Democrats on the defensive over the health care plan they enacted this year, the poll also shows Americans remain divided over Republican promises to repeal it. Forty-five percent said the law should stand, and 41 percent said it should go.
The poll does not measure the strength of individual candidates in specific districts, where indeterminate factors like voter turnout and even weather can affect results. And the poll, taken nationally Thursday through Tuesday with interviews of 1,173 adults, did not ask about United States Senate contests, as 14 states do not have Senate races this year. (The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.)
But it does offer a clear indication of party strength at the end of what has been a particularly intense and hard-fought midterm campaign with more bad news than good for Mr. Obama and his party.
Over all, 46 percent of likely voters said they would vote for Republicans and 40 percent said they would support Democrats.
A higher percentage of Americans continues to have a more favorable opinion of the Democratic Party than of the Republican Party, with 46 percent favoring Democrats and 41 favoring Republicans. But the Republicans’ favorability rating in the New York Times/CBS poll is at its highest level since September 2006.
Disapproval of Congress, however, remains near its highest level in the history of the Times/CBS poll: 76 percent of respondents disapproved, 14 percent approved, and 10 percent expressed no opinion.
Mr. Obama’s approval rating remains below 50 percent. It is 43 percent among registered voters, which is about where President Bill Clinton’s approval rating was in the 1994 midterm elections when Republicans swept control of the House and the Senate.
(Read More: NY Times)