Three months before the midterm elections a record number of Americans in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll disapprove of their own representative in Congress – a potentially chilling signal for incumbents that marks the depths of the public’s political discontent.
Could it mean something less in Texas than it does in other states? My feeling is that much of the effect this data might -- underscore might -- foretell depends on the successful efforts and execution of Battleground Texas.
Just 41 percent in this national survey approve of the way their own representative in the U.S. House is handling his or her job, the lowest in ABC/Post polls dating back a quarter century, to May 1989. Fifty-one percent disapprove – more than half for the first time.
The result, extending a drop from last October, turns on its head the old chestnut that Americans hate Congress but love their Congress member. It also recalls an ABC/Post poll result in April, in which just 22 percent said they were inclined to re-elect their representative, a low also dating back to 1989. Were it not for gerrymandering, these are the kind of results that could portend a serious shakeup come Nov. 4.
The actual impact remains to be seen, given both the few competitive House districts and the low esteem in which both parties are held.
The grimmest score is the GOP’s: A mere 35 percent express a favorable impression of the Republican Party, a number that’s been lower just twice in polls since 1984 – 32 percent last October, just after the partial government shutdown in a Washington budget dispute; and 31 percent in December 1998, immediately after the impeachment of Bill Clinton.
The Democratic Party is seen favorably by more Americans, 49 percent in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. But that, similarly, is one of the party’s lowest popularity ratings on record in 30 years.
The Democrats’ 14-point advantage in favorability may look like an edge in the midterms, and indeed it may make them less vulnerable than they’d be otherwise. But other elements factor into election math, including turnout, which customarily favors the Republicans; the number of open Senate seats each party has to defend, higher this year for the Democrats; competitive House seats, which as noted are few; the quality of individual candidates; and the presence or absence of an overarching theme that can galvanize voters in one party’s favor, which has yet to emerge.
What it does mean, undoubtedly, is that the public is in an extended political snit.
No. Really? More things we did not know (sarcasm)...
Disapproval of “your own representative” peaks, at 58 percent, among Hispanics, perhaps expressing dissatisfaction with the stalled overhaul of immigration policy. Hispanics are particularly negative toward the Republican Party – 65 percent see it unfavorably, while 61 percent of Hispanics express a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party.
Blacks tilt even more heavily pro-Democratic (82 percent) and anti-Republican (81 percent). Indeed, whatever occurs in this year’s midterms, the results among nonwhites overall underscore the GOP’s challenges as whites’ share of the nation’s population shrinks. Seventy percent of nonwhites see the Republican Party unfavorably overall, while about as many, 68 percent, have a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party. Whites, for their part, are equally negative about both parties.
Among other groups, as long has been the case, the Democrats are more popular with women than with men. The gap between favorable ratings of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party among men is just 6 percentage points (44 vs. 38 percent). Among women it’s 21 points (54 vs. 33 percent).
Combining race, sex and education shows a longstanding difference in one particular group: college-educated white women, who are much more favorably inclined toward the Democratic than the Republican Party. White women who lack a college degree see both parties equally, and white men are more favorable toward the GOP, regardless of education.
Single women also are a markedly more Democratic-inclined group. But married men tilt heavily in the opposite direction – toward the GOP – and there’s twice as many of them. Of such threads are election strategies woven.
Twice as many married (conservative ) men as single (liberal) women. That whole War on Women thing? Guess who's winning.
So my questions are...
-- Does anybody really think that their Republican Congressbeast (mine happens to be the odious John Culberson) is in danger from his challenger -- again in CD-7, the lamest of asses, James Cargas?
-- How about John Cornyn getting knocked off by David Alameel? Anybody think that stands a chance in hell of happening?
None of these potential upsets seem to be registering in the Texas polling. Our statewide candidates and their campaigns are enthused, and draw enthusiastic crowds, but data still shows them farther behind than they were four years ago, and eight years ago.
Oh well. As media mavens, talking heads, and chattering pundits -- not to mention paid political consultants -- keep telling us, "nobody pays attention until after Labor Day". And what, pray tell, will they suddenly be paying attention to? Greg Abbott's record-breaking crony capitalism? Ken Paxton's criminal case? Mr. Invisible himself, Dan Maddafracking Patrick? As the seasons turn, is there going to be a mass awakening -- a renaissance of progressive populism -- that suddenly springs forth from the souls of the historically apathetic Texas electorate? Or maybe an extinction; a massive die-off of conservative freaks in the boondocks? An unpredicted surge of alternate party voters all across the state, perhaps?
There's a reason why the wealthiest Texans take off the entire month of August and go on vacation in Monaco, or Maine, or Lake Louise. And it's not just because of the heat or the hurricanes: it's because they've already paid the tab for the November outcome. They could take the rest of the year off if they felt like it. But they need to come back to town just to be ready to write another five- or six-figure check at the last minute.
Meanwhile, the unwashed masses are lined up in the 97-degree heat at the Houston Texans practice field, or body-surfing in the flesh-eating bacteria off the coast in Galveston, or just relaxing indoors in front of their 72-inch television watching 'Naked and Afraid'.
You know, to see how the other half lives. Those poor bastards. It's good for one's self-esteem to have someone to look down on while you shop on tax-free weekend (stickin' that 8% discount to The Man!) for back-to-school, or pick up that new 84" plasma TV before the college football season kicks off, or even help those high school cheerleaders make prayer banners for the team to run through.
Seems like Texans (not the football team, the regular folks) are going to be awfully busy this fall. Are we sure they are going to have time to pay attention to the elections after Labor Day?
Update: Prairie Weather with the reasons Democrats should win, but won't. See? It's not just me that's a little pessimistic. But Gadfly dismisses the poll's findings almost entirely, which might have been what I should have done to avoid being so sarcastic.