As Americans look ahead to the mid-term elections, anything new is preferable to anything old, -- such as an incumbent. And despite recent Republican wins in Massachusetts, Virginia and New Jersey, this is not necessarily good news for Republicans.
Americans dispense just about as much disdain for Republicans (42 percent favorable; 46 percent unfavorable) as Democrats (42 percent favorable; 48 percent unfavorable), according to a Fox News poll released Friday.
On the other hand, the new kid on the block -- the Tea Party Movement -- fares better (35 percent favorable; 22 percent unfavorable), although more than four of 10 voters are unable to give an opinion or say they have never heard of the group.
The real dynamic seems to be a revolt against insiders -- as voters say they would choose a challenger over an incumbent by a two-to-one margin (38 percent to 19 percent).
Nearly all voters express some degree of interest in the November midterms, although significantly more Republicans (38 percent) than Democrats (22 percent) say they are “extremely” interested.
Moreover, Republicans (41 percent) have a slim edge over Democrats (36 percent) on a generic Congressional ballot, if the election were held today.
The key bloc of independent voters is tougher on Republicans (33 percent favorable; 46 percent unfavorable) than Democrats (40 percent favorable; 42 percent unfavorable). Despite their less positive view of the GOP, independents favor the Republican candidate in the generic ballot by a 9-percentage point margin (32 percent to 23 percent).
In the recent state elections where Republicans scored upset victories, the poll finds more voters see those results as “sending a message” to President Obama and Democrats (59 percent) than as an affirmation of the particular candidates and issues in those races (22 percent).
Republicans just happen to be the carriers of that message right now. The GOP should take note that, despite having served in office over a year, Barack Obama is more likely to be viewed as a Washington outsider (48 percent) than one of those unfashionable insiders (37 percent).
Politicians of both parties had better take the Tea Party movement seriously, if for no other reason than voters see it as a legitimate phenomenon. About half of voters (51 percent) think the Tea Party Movement is a “serious” group of people who believe government is too big and taxes are too high. One voter in five (20 percent) thinks Tea Partiers are on the “fringe” of politics with extreme right-wing views, while about a quarter (24 percent) is undecided.
The national telephone poll was conducted for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from February 2 to February 3, 2010. The poll has a 3-point sampling error margin.
Ernie Paicopolos is a Principal at Opinion Dynamics Corporation