A new CNN/ORC International poll released Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013 is a mix of both good and bad news for the current 113th Congress; Americans think it is the worst ever, but also more likely to vote for a Republican come the midterm elections in November 2014. The poll looked at Congress as it is now and also served as a "generic ballot" for the upcoming Congressional elections.
Despite President Barack Obama's every effort to pin the government shutdown on the Republicans in Congress, his hard work maligning the Republicans may have backfired, or maybe his disastrous rollout of his health care law, the Affordable Care Act overshadowed the government in American minds, but Republicans are now leading Democrats in the polls.
The new CNN poll has the Republicans now with a slight lead over the Democrats with 49 percent support for Republicans versus 44 percent for Democrats. The numbers have been a sharp contrast from two months ago just after the government shutdown when Democrats lead 50 percent to 42 percent for the Republicans. But when the spotlight turned to the problems with the health care rollout, Democrats starting taking a hit in the poll and in November held a much lower lead over Republicans narrowing to just 49 percent to 47 percent.
According CNN Polling Director Keating Holland the reason why Republicans now have a slight lead is that they had gained the support of men; "Virtually all the movement toward the GOP has come among men. Fifty-four percent of female voters chose the Democratic candidate in October; 53% pick the Dem now. But among male voters, support for Democratic candidates has gone from 46% in October to just 35% now."
President Obama's dwindling poll numbers are mostly because of the disaster health care law, the Affordable Care Act rollout in October. Both the insurance purchasing Marketplace website, HealthCare.gov was riddled with errors and did not properly work and millions of Americans were losing their coverage with the law's new minimum requirement.
The website has since been mostly repaired since meeting the Nov. 30 White House imposed deadline and on Nov. 14 the President allowed insurance companies to reinstate the cancelled insurance policies or let Americans who lost their insurance buy similar ones through 2014. It is only because the there have been improvements with the Marketplace's function, that the President's own poll numbers have leveled off, and did not fall any further. Still Democrats are facing a backlash because of the rollout, and the fact that the law was entirely passed by Democrats in Congress.
Not only are Americans more likely to vote for a Republican, but they would vote for any candidate who opposes President Obama. According to the poll 55 percent of Americans are thinking this way and only 40 percent would vote for a candidate that supports Obama. President Obama was once the Democratic Party's savior and pure lucky gold for any Democratic candidate endorsed by him or had his help campaigning, he has now become poison for Congressional Democrats.
It does not help the Democrats that their party supporters are apathetic about the upcoming election, with only 22 percent excited about the November vote. Although in general Americans are not very excited for the midterm elections, with only 30 percent of Americans "extremely or very enthusiastic" to vote next November. Still Republicans are more excited about the prospect of taking control of the whole Congress, which has sparked more interest in the election, leading the number to climb to 36 percent for Republican voter enthusiasm.
Unless the President's own approval ratings turnaround, Democrats looking to be reelected or elected are going to be distancing themselves from Obama, not unlike Republicans did in the 2006 midterm election and 2008 election with then President George W. Bush. Holland seems to also agree the poll numbers are troubling for Democrats; "Those kind of numbers spelled early trouble for the Democrats before the 1994 and 2010 midterms, and for the GOP before the 2006 elections."
The flip side of the CNN poll rated Congress' present performance, with nearly 75 percent considering the 113th Congress a "Do Nothing Congress." According to the poll two-thirds find it the worst Congress they seen in their lives, and only 28 percent are not sharing that view. Americans also find that the Congress has not done a thing to help improve their lives this past year, with 73 percent feeling that way and only 25 percent feeling the opposite.
This past year has been after one of the most unproductive years in Congress, each new prospective legislation meeting standstill after standstill. Congress in total only passed 60 laws, even though they spent much more time in chambers than other more productive years. The Boston Globe expressed it right "Even the infamous "Do Nothing Congress" of 1948 did more," and they did, passing 511 laws. With next year being an election year, and considering this past year's performance, Congress will probably do less, not more in 2014 than they did in 2013.
Holland says that the negative opinion comes more from older Americans that have witnessed the productivity levels of past Congresses; they have more to compare to; "That sentiment exists among all demographic and political subgroups. Men, women, rich, poor, young, old - all think this year's Congress has been the worst they can remember. Older Americans - who have lived through more congresses - hold more negative views of the 113th Congress than younger Americans. Republicans, Democrats and independents also agree that this has been the worst session of Congress in their lifetimes." Still there is a wide consensus about this Congress' lack of productivity age notwithstanding.
Despite American voters being more receptive to Republicans that does not mean American think they will do much good to lead the country in the right direction. Americans feel Republican leader's policies are bad for the country by 54 percent; the same percentage feels that sentiment about President Obama's policies. Although their 2014 election prospects seem bleak, Democratic leaders fare the best with 52 percent of the public believing their policies "would move the country in the wrong direction."
President Obama has a lot to be worried about going in the last midterm election cycle of his Presidency, especially since most second term president sees their party losing seats going into their last two years, especially when the President's approval rating is less than 50 percent. When asked if they would vote in the midterm elections for a Democratic or Republican candidate for the House of Representatives the results were close to even 47 percent to 45 percent with Democrats taking a tiny two percent lead.
The President needs both Houses of Congress to be in Democratic control in order to pass the remainder of the agenda, including a sweeping immigration reform bill. If the House stays in Republican hands, the same stand still on legislation and Obama's agenda will remain, and maybe be enforced by an election victory guaranteeing that President Obama will be a lame duck for the last two years of his Presidency. And with the new Senate rules on filibuster it would devastating for the President if the Republicans capture the Senate possibly paving the way for a repeal of his unpopular health care law, known as Obamacare.