James and I have just released a new Congressional Battleground Poll. It’s the most important poll for us, because it’s the most unique; it’s the only poll out there that looks at the real congressional battleground, and it’s been pretty much on the mark, in every election cycle, in good and bad times for Democrats.
This poll surprised us. We had accepted that the presumption that reapportionment and an off-year electorate wouldn’t allow Democrats to have a shot at making gains in the 2014 midterms. After seeing these results, we no longer think that’s true.
You should look closely at the poll that we’ve just done. It included 1,250 interviews in 49 Republican seats and 31 Democratic seats. We polled with incumbents’ real names, and our sample is representative of an off-year electorate. The sample is 88 percent white, so it’s very conservative.
This poll says that after six months, the country may well have decided that what happens here and in this Congress does matter to them. Voters are smarter than pundits think. They know that Republicans control the Congress — indeed, they are the Congress, according to this poll. And we see incumbent Republicans with just 43 percent support, with job approval numbers that are lower than or equal to any of the incumbents in all of the cycles we’ve polled in the past — including wave elections such as 2006, 2008, and 2010.
This poll indicates that the pundits and elite in Washington — including us — should start over with our presumptions. We should not take for granted that the voters out there are not watching what’s happening here. They may well be reacting to what they are seeing. They don’t like the Tea Party, and that is as clear as can be.
We will come back and look at these seats again this year. But we hope we can start a discussion, in which we say, “let’s look again and see whether this really is an election that can matter.” Because it very well might.
The full results of the Congressional Battleground Poll can be seen here.