Fox News Poll: Race for Congress tightens, confidence in Obama low

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Enthusiasm in the midterm elections remains in the Republicans’ favor -- but the spread has significantly narrowed, according to a new Fox News national poll.

Among likely voters, 45 percent of Republicans are “extremely” interested compared to 41 percent of Democrats. Two weeks ago, the GOP was up 15 points on that question.

Party loyalty is slightly in the Democrats’ favor, as more Democrats (89 percent) than Republicans (87 percent) plan to vote for their party’s candidate.  This makes more of a difference than one might expect, because more voters identify as Democrat than Republican.

Click here for the poll results.

What’s the net result? For one thing, a further tightening of the generic congressional ballot that was already within the margin of error: 45 percent of likely voters favor the Democratic candidate in their House district and 44 percent back the Republican. This represents a four-point shift from two weeks ago, when the Republican candidate was up by three among likely voters (45-42 percent).

It’s difficult to make a direct connection between generic vote results and individual races.

There was a smaller shift on which party voters prefer control the U.S. Senate: likely voters want Republicans to win control by 47-45 percent. Two weeks ago it was 47-43 percent.

Meanwhile, 62 percent of American voters lack confidence in President Obama’s leadership.  That includes 28 percent who say they are losing confidence, and 34 percent who never had confidence.

The new Fox News national poll released Tuesday also finds that one week before Election Day, voters:

- Would vote against the president’s policies if they were on the ballot.

- Think it would be good if every member of Congress got the boot.

- Feel the economy is still in bad shape, but not quite as bad as before the 2010 midterm.

- Think Republican control of the U.S. Senate would be a net positive.

Thirty percent of Democrats don’t have confidence in their president:  six percent never had confidence, while another one in four -- 24 percent -- are losing confidence.

Among independents, 19 percent have confidence in Obama, while 75 percent either never had (34 percent) or are losing confidence (41 percent).

Overall, 36 percent are confident in Obama’s leadership.

In addition, the president’s job rating has been in negative territory for 18 months straight -- and remains there today:  41 percent of voters approve, while 54 percent disapprove.

A 59-percent majority says the Obama administration has not been “competent and effective” in managing the government (39 percent say it has).

And by a 58-36 percent margin, a majority would vote against Obama and his policies if they were on the ballot this year.  That includes 21 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of independents.

Frustration with the federal government remains high.  Just three percent of voters feel enthusiastic about the way the government is working.  Nearly eight times that many -- 23 percent -- are angry.  Twenty-five percent were angry before the 2010 midterms.

Another 25 percent feel satisfied with how the government is working, up from 22 percent in 2010.  Forty-six percent are dissatisfied, down from a 51-percent majority four years ago.

Congressional Voting

Drilling deeper into the congressional election numbers, women are more likely to back the Democratic candidate in their district by an 11 percentage-point margin, while men are more likely to back the Republican by 10 points.

Among likely voters, independents back the Republican on the ballot question by a 40-25 percent margin.

Seventy-seven percent of likely voters who support the Tea Party movement are backing the Republican candidate.  That’s down from 91 percent in the final Fox News poll before the 2010 midterm election.

While it’s tough to make a direct connection between the generic vote results and individual congressional races, such a small advantage by one party or the other means little change should be expected to the makeup of Congress.

For comparison, in the final Fox News poll before the 2010 midterm -- when the GOP gained 63 seats and the majority in the U.S. House -- Republicans were up by 50-37 percent on the generic ballot among likely voters.

Of course, being in the majority can have its drawbacks when voters are in a mood for change.  Overall, 59 percent say it would be “good for the country” if all the current members of Congress were ousted (including their own House member) and all new people were elected.  That’s up from 47 percent who liked the idea of a fresh start in 2010.

That 12-point jump is driven by more Democrats (+16 points) and independents (+22 points) now saying all congressional lawmakers should be sent packing than said so in 2010.  Among Republicans, views held mostly steady at about six in 10.

Despite a majority saying it would be good if all current members were removed from office, nearly half of voters -- 46 percent -- approve of the job their representative is doing.  That’s more than three times as many as the 13 percent that approve of Congress overall.

A bit of a bright spot for incumbents this year is that fewer people are concerned about the future of the country. In 2010, 91 percent were “extremely” (43 percent) or “very” (48 percent) concerned.  Today, 83 percent are concerned (42 percent “extremely” and 41 percent “very”).

If Republicans win control of the U.S. Senate, how would that change things?  Thirty-seven percent of voters think it would be a change for the better, while 28 percent say things would change for the worse.  Another 32 percent don’t expect things to change if the GOP takes the senate, including 23 percent of Republicans.

In 2010, 37 percent said Republicans winning control of Congress would lead to change for the better, 21 percent said for the worse and 38 percent didn’t expect any real change.

On the Issues

Views on the economy are ugly, but have improved since 2010. Only 18 percent of voters rate economic conditions positively (1 percent “excellent and 17 percent “good”). However, the number saying the economy is in “poor” condition now stands at just 33 percent. That’s down from 55 percent who felt that way before the 2010 midterm election, and is at its lowest point since October 2007.

Still, voters say the economy is the most important issue facing the country (43 percent).  Less than one in five say the top issue is illegal immigration (17 percent), health care (16 percent) or foreign policy (15 percent).

And majorities disapprove of Obama’s performance on each of these issues:  56 percent disapprove on the economy, 60 percent on immigration, 57 percent on health care and 57 percent disapprove of how he’s handling foreign policy.

When asked which party would do a better job handling top issues, the poll finds Democrats have an advantage on “who has your back” (+10 points) and health care (+1 points).  Republicans come out on top on terrorism (+21 points), taxes (+12 percent), foreign policy (+9 points), the economy (+5 points) and illegal immigration (+3 points).

Independents give the edge to Republicans over Democrats on all of the issues tested.

The GOP is seen as better at protecting the country from terrorism by a 52-31 percent margin.  That’s important this election season as three-quarters of voters think ISIS will try to launch an attack on U.S. soil soon (75 percent), and nearly half of voters -- 45 percent -- don’t think the federal government is doing everything it can to prevent it.

Furthermore, 56 percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of ISIS, and 71 percent say he hasn’t been tough enough on radical Muslim extremists.


By a 46-26 percent margin, more voters think Obamacare “went too far” than “didn’t go far enough.”  For another 23 percent it’s Goldilocks (“about right”).

Why are unemployment numbers down?  Over half -- 53 percent -- say it’s because people have stopped looking for a job.  Nearly four in 10 believe it’s because the economy is creating new jobs and more jobs are available these days (37 percent).

Most Democrats think the economy is creating new jobs (57 percent), while most Republicans (69 percent) and independents (65 percent) say people have given up.

The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 1,005 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from October 25-27, 2014. The full poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. For the subgroup of 734 likely voters, the margin of sampling error is also plus or minus 3.5 points.