NPR Poll: Trends are anti-Democrat, not anti-incumbent

NPR released poll results (further details here) today concerning national congressional races. There’s a fair amount of detail but the number one conclusion is clear. The trend of voter direction is not anti-incumbent, as is often suggested in the media, but distinctly anti-Democrat.

The following graph shows results for what NPR determined were swing districts, defined as a district where the incumbent is a Democrat but the district voted McCain in 2008 or the incumbent is a Republican but the district voted Obama in 2008. There are 70 such districts, 60 of those with democratic incumbents.

nprchart1.png

Note that in Democratic swing districts, voters favor a Republican candidate 47% to 42%, but in Republican districts they also favor the Republican candidate–this time by a 53% to 37% margin. Once again, that is clear evidence that the trend isn’t anti-incumbent. Analysis at NPR by Greenberg (Democrat) and Bolger (Republican) was as follows:

“In a year where voters want change and in which Democrats are seen to be in power, this is a tough poll — about as tough as you get,” Greenberg said.

Bolger said the poll results will be a wake-up call for Democrats, who were stunned at the beginning of the year when Republican Scott Brown won the U.S. Senate seat held for years by the late Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

“If Massachusetts was the first wake-up call, this is was the snooze alarm going off,” Bolger said.

He pointed out that President Obama’s approval ratings are much lower in these competitive districts than they are nationally: 54 percent of the likely battleground voters disapproved of Obama’s performance; 40 percent approved.

“It’s very problematic for the president to have a 40 percent approval rating in these 60 Democratic districts,” Bolger said. “When you look at history, when the president is below 50 percent nationally, his party tends to lose more than 40 seats.”

More after the break.

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The question that produced the results, above, was also worded in a peculiar manner.

I know it’s a long way off, but thinking about the election for Congress this year, if the election for U.S. Congress were held today, would you be voting for (DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE) or (REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE)?

Starting with “I know it’s a long way off” carries with it an implicit suggestion of “Things may change with how you are feeling now.”

An additional question was asked to specifically address the anti-incumbent issue.

As you may know, there will be an election for your representative to Congress in November this year. Do you think you will definitely vote to re-elect [your incumbent House representative] to Congress, probably vote to re-elect [your incumbent House representative], probably vote for someone else, or definitely vote for someone else? (Skipped if open seat)

The results are just as telling.

Democratic Incumbent
nprchart2.png
Republican Incumbent
nprchart3.png

While I didn’t look for internals, one can assume that a poll commissioned by NPR would have a Democratic bias, if any. The fact that the results are so strong paints a “tough road ahead for Democrats” as NPR suggests.

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