Republicans hold a voter “engagement advantage” ahead of the 2014 midterm elections, although not as much as four years ago before the party won control of the U.S. House, a study released today says.
The report by the Pew Research Center in Washington also showed that neither party has a significant voter-preference advantage, with 45 percent of those surveyed saying they’ll support the Republican in their U.S. House district or are leaning that way, and 47 percent opting for the Democrat or likely to do so.
That’s similar to Pew survey results at this point in 2010, before a Republican “wave” election that resulted in the party gaining 63 seats in the House amid higher turnout among its base and older voters.
“At this point in the last two midterms, voter-engagement trends were decisively in one party’s favor -- Republicans in 2010, Democrats in 2006,” said Carroll Doherty, Pew’s director of political research. “It’s very different this year. Republicans have an advantage, but nothing like their edge in 2010 or the Democrats had four years earlier.”
In another measure of engagement, the survey showed that 45 percent of registered voters who plan to support the Republican in their district say they are more enthusiastic about voting than in prior congressional elections, compared with 37 percent of those who plan to vote for a Democrat. That’s smaller than the 13-percentage-point enthusiasm advantage Republicans held at this point four years ago.
Republicans are expected to maintain their House majority, and a net gain of six Senate seats will give the party control of that chamber. Such an outcome would alter Washington’s political calculus, putting Republicans in position to stall President Barack Obama’s nominees to executive and judicial posts and thwart other administration initiatives.
A falloff in turnout is the biggest threat Democrats face in the midterms, when electorates tend to be older and whiter, two constituencies their party hasn’t won in recent elections. The political environment is also potentially threatening to Democrats, with Obama plagued by low approval ratings and the U.S. economy undergoing a slow recovery.
On party preference, the study showed wide gender, educational and income differences. Republicans hold a 10-percentage-point advantage among men, 50 percent to 40 percent, while Democrats have a 12-point advantage among women, 52 percent to 40 percent.
Those with family incomes between $50,000 and $74,999 favor the Republican in their district by a wide margin, 57 percent to 33 percent. Democrats have a 13-point-advantage, 52 percent to 39 percent, among voters with incomes of less than $30,000.
As was the case four years ago, Obama is a powerful motivating force for Republicans, with about half of those who say they’ll vote for the party’s candidates considering their ballot as one “against” him, almost identical to a Pew survey taken in June 2010.
The president is less of a positive force for motivating his own party, with 36 percent of those planning to vote for the Democrat in their district viewing it as a vote for Obama, down from 44 percent in 2010.
Americans continue to hold Congress in low regard, according to the study. Just 28 percent view it favorably, and a record high for a Pew survey of 55 percent say the lawmakers have accomplished less than usual. By a margin of 44 percent to 28 percent, those who say Congress has done less than usual blame Republican leaders rather than Democratic leaders.
That mood has boosted anti-incumbent sentiment, with just 48 percent of registered voters wanting to see their own representative re-elected, close to a two-decade low in a Pew survey.
The Pew report is based on a survey of 1,805 adults, including 1,420 registered voters, that was conducted July 8-14.