What do the polls say about the mid-term elections?

12:33, September 24, 2010      

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Polls, polls, everywhere polls.

In the run up to the November congressional elections, there are polls on who is ahead in Congress; on how Americans view the economy; and on how the public views U.S. President Barack Obama' s healthcare overhaul virtually all the issues the Obama administration has dealt with in its nearly two years in office.
And that makes it easy to get lost in the abundance of information.

But which polls are most important, and what do they say about the outcome of the November congressional elections?

Overall, the polls reflect significant problems for Democrats: The president is unpopular not as much as former U.S. President George W. Bush at the end of his term -- but unpopular nonetheless. The economy is also a wreck.

Add to those factors the fact that Democrats must defend many open seats, or seats they won recently in Republican- leaning areas, and a big GOP gain is likely, said John Fortier, fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Based on those dynamics, the most likely outcome for Republicans is winning a small House majority and 48 or 49 Senate seats, he said.

ECONOMY THE MOST PRESSING MATTER

But of all the factors influencing the elections, pundits, experts and polls unanimously point to the economy. According to a Gallop survey released Tuesday that asked respondents to name the most important issue facing the United States today, 33 percent cited the economy in general and 28 percent said jobs.

Dissatisfaction with government came in at 11 percent; followed by 7 percent who cited the federal budget deficit and 6 percent who pointed to healthcare.

"(The economy) is the factor that will drive voting behavior and citizen unhappiness with government performance," said Darrell M. West, director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. "Voters are bottom-line oriented and if they feel performance is unsatisfactory, they will penalize Democrats and vote Republican."

Right now, voters are frustrated with high unemployment and massive government deficits. They do not like what they see, and that will enable Republicans to pick up many seats in November, he said.

CONGRESS IN PUBLIC EYE, BUT PRESIDENT MORE IMPORTANT

Much attention has been given in recent months to polls measuring voters' approval of Congress. In September, public approval ratings stood at just 18 percent, which is not far from record lows of 14 percent, according to a Gallup/USA Today poll released Monday.

Still, Fortier said public opinion of Congress is not particularly important in predicting the outcome of the mid terms.

"In midterm elections, the president's standing matters, not the opinion of Congress if it is quite low in both parties," he said.

Indeed, the president's popularity rate, which has dropped continuously for several months, is a major source of worry for Democrats in Congress.

Low approval numbers can drag down the popularity of a congressional candidate, and some Democratic candidates appeared to distance themselves from the president in recent months.

A CNN nationwide polls released Tuesday found that Obama's approval ratings stands at 46 percent.

In contrast, 49 percent of Americans disapprove of the job he is doing, just six weeks before the November elections.

THE STIMULUS

Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, said Americans'feelings on the nearly 1 trillion U.S. dollar stimulus, which Obama passed last year in an effort to stave off economic disaster, are likely to play a role in November.

Indeed, a USA Today/Gallup survey conducted in August found that 52 percent of Americans disapproved of the stimulus and 43 percent approved of it.

While Democrats tout the stimulus as helping to create jobs, Republicans say the opposite, and voters are more persuaded by the latter group, he said.

That has hurt Democrats significantly, as has the GOP drumbeat over the ballooning deficit has also hurt Democrats, who believe the rising U.S. debt is manageable in the long run, he said.

Source: Xinhua

(Editor:王千原雪)

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