Yes, the gap is still noticeable. However, the trends are as well.
Although the GOP has returned to a five point-gap this week on the genericc congressional ballot this week, you have to wonder how. Here are some of the internals within Gallup’s poll this week. (All results are of registered voters.)
- Voter enthusiasm among Democratic voters jumped up six points. The biggest single movement anywhere in Gallup’s polling. Voter enthusiasm by Democratic voters exceed that of Independents by five points. With GOP enthusiasm dropping a statistically insignificant point and two with Independents, the voter enthusiasm gap has gone from the 25-point advantage the GOP enjoyed all of August to 18 points.
- Support for generic Republican candidate has dropped five points in a week with Independents… in a week. As a result, the GOP advantage among registered Independents is down to ten points.
Where does that national environment leave us two weeks before early voting starts in Ohio?
The enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats is rapidly closing. Independents are souring on the prospect of a GOP-led Congress. While the GOP has an advantage with Independents as Democrats did in 2006 (although not as pronounced) when they took over Congress, the problem is that those Independents haven’t been this unmotivated to vote than any time before 1994 when Congress changed hands. So that advantage may not amount to anything, especially since Democrats are substantially more motivated to vote and united enough to overcome a diluted advantage with Independents (and that’s even if that advantage holds.) You have to wonder how a party who is told they are poised for electoral disaster is able to seeing their voter enthusiasm rapidly increase (cough, OFA, cough.)
In other words, this isn’t a Republican version of the Democratic Party’s 2008 or 2006 cycles. While the general voter identification by party has tighter from the advantages Democrats had in 2006 and 2008, most polls still show that most voters identify themselves as Democrats. In 1994, Gallup showed the GOP having a three-point advantage in party identification with nearly half the electorate identifying themselves as Republican. The Democrats still hold that kind of advantage among all publicly available polling of registered/likely voters. People aren’t exactly flocking to call themselves Republicans this year… still.
Another thing the GOP is lacking (or stuck with) is negative perception. In 1994, the GOP was a good brand with the polling electorate. In 2010, voters hold them in worse regard than Democrats because people still remember the all-GOP Bush years.
That leaves us with a Republican Party that loves it brand better than in 2006 and 2008, and an almost total don’t give a crap from Independents who are soured on both parties. But most still consider themselves Democrats, they’re started to care about the election, and Independents are started to question if they really want to see a GOP-led Congress again.