It is often theorized that mid-term Presidential year elections are simply referendums on the voters’ satisfaction with the current administration’s term in office. Often though, those mid-term elections, like we are having in 2010 are met with substantial losses for the party in power. In fact, only twice in the past 100 years has the party who controlled the Presidency picked up seats in Congress during that President’s first mid-term year election.
So will this year’s election be driven by voters’ opinion of President Barack Obama? Based on the results of polling Civitas recently has done in six swing NC Senate districts, there appears to be a striking correlation between voters’ opinion on Obama and how they plan on voting this year.
Over the past few weeks Civitas released polling in Senate District 8 (Brunswick, Columbus, and Pender), Senate District 9 (New Hanover), Senate District 10 (Sampson, Duplin, and Lenoir), Senate District 43 (Gaston), Senate District 45 (Alexander, Ashe, Wilkes, and Watauga) and Senate District 50 (Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon, Swain, Jackson, Transylvania, and Haywood).
We asked voters in these districts a number of questions, but a unique correlation occurred when comparing their answer on the job President Barack Obama is doing and their answer on the generic legislative ballot. In every district, the percentage of voters who approve of the job Obama is doing correlated very strongly with the answer that they were voting Democratic on the generic ballot. Simply put, the Democratic legislative vote seems to be tied directly to voters’ opinions of the President. For many Democratic candidates, this could be troubling as Obama’s job approval numbers continue to wane.
In the poll, two of the questions we asked were:
“Do you approve or disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing as President?” and;
“If the election for State Legislature were held today, would you be voting for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate?”
Compare these numbers:
Obama approval – 39% approve, 57% disapprove
Generic ballot – 49% Republican, 39% Democratic
Obama approval – 43% approve, 53% disapprove
Generic ballot – 49% Republican, 38% Democratic
Obama approval – 48% approve, 46% disapprove
Generic ballot – 40% Republican, 49% Democratic
Obama approval – 28% approve, 67% disapprove
Generic ballot – 59% Republican, 28% Democratic
Obama approval – 33% approve, 59% disapprove
Generic ballot – 48% Republican, 36% Democratic
Obama approval – 34% approve, 59% disapprove
Generic ballot – 50% Republican, 36% Democratic
In each of these districts, the percentage of voters approving of Obama’s job as President is statistically similar to the percentage saying they are voting Democratic for state Legislature.
It should also be noted that there is not as strong a correlation in the opposite direction. Because voters disapprove of Obama’s performance does not seem to mean they are automatically voting Republican on the generic ballot. Republican candidates have work to do to capture voters dissatisfied with Obama. Democratic candidates seem to have the harder job right now to disassociate themselves from Obama.
If you look just at voters who say they are the most likely to vote this fall (responded 10 on a 10 scale when asked how likely they are to vote in 2010), the numbers line up even more. Thus, at this point it looks like the fate of many Democratic candidates might be tied to whether this fall is a voter referendum on President Obama job performance.