5 things we’ve learned about voters’ views on politics

SHARE 5 things we’ve learned about voters’ views on politics

WASHINGTON — The latest Associated Press-GfK poll finds the nation dissatisfied with what Congress and President Barack Obama have done lately, and few expect much more after the midterm elections.

Here’s a look at five things to know from the poll.


Nearly 9 in 10 Americans say they disapprove of how Congress is handling its job, and 6 in 10 disapprove of the president.

More than half of Americans, 54 percent, disapprove of both.

Among this group, 94 percent say the nation is heading in the wrong direction. About 7 in 10 say someone new ought to win in their congressional district and about half say they are completely certain they’ll vote this November. Most, 57 percent, are Republicans or say they lean that way, and 51 percent want to see the GOP wind up in control of Congress this fall.

That Republican tilt stems more from ratings for the president than from those of Congress. Partisanship largely drives presidential disapproval — only 27 percent of Democrats disapprove of Obama’s performance while 90 percent of Republicans do — but Congress inspires distaste from both sides of the aisle. Among both Democrats and Republicans, 86 percent disapprove of Congress’ performance, and 84 percent of independents join them.


One-third of Americans say they hope the Republicans take control of Congress outright this fall, and the same share want to see Democrats lead Congress. The final third? They say it just doesn’t matter who takes control of Congress.

So who says they don’t care?

Among independents, 77 percent say it just doesn’t matter who takes control of Congress this fall. The remainder are split evenly — 11 percent favor the Democrats, 11 percent the Republicans.

Overall, those who say it doesn’t much matter are younger (63 percent are under age 50) and largely uninterested in the upcoming election (just 28 percent say they have a great deal or quite a bit of interest in following it).

Still, this group isn’t completely disengaged from politics.

Three in 10 who say it really doesn’t matter who wins are also completely certain they’ll turn out to vote Nov. 4. The economy is far and away their top issue: 84 percent call it important, with health care second at 74 percent.


All told, only 28 percent of Americans think the nation is heading in the right direction, the lowest level in August of an election year since 2008. It’s about on par with 2006, when Democrats took control of the House amid a backlash to the Iraq war.

Though the economy pushed the nation’s “right direction” figures to historic lows in the fall of 2008, that does not seem to be the culprit in the new poll. About a third (35 percent) say the economy is in good shape, about the same as in May, and 58 percent say the economy has stayed about the same in the past month.

The decline in optimism about the country’s path now seems to mirror drops in August 2011 and October 2013, when congressional inaction led to the threat of a government shutdown in 2011 and a partial one in 2013. Among Democrats, the share saying the nation is heading in the right direction dipped 11 points since May, to 49 percent, while among independents, it’s down slightly to 23 percent. The August 2011 and October 2013 declines in right direction were also driven by sharp drops among Democrats and independents.


There are some signs in the new poll that Republicans have gained ground as the height of the campaign approaches. In May, they trailed Democrats a bit on who ought to control Congress, but now the two parties are about even. Partisans are about equally likely to say they’d like to see their own party in charge of Congress after Nov. 4, with about three-quarters of each saying they hope their side winds up in control. That’s a negative shift for Democrats, who are a bit less apt to say they want their own party to win now than they were in May — 74 percent in the new poll compared with 80 percent then.

Among those who say they are certain to vote this fall, just 8 percent approve of the way Congress is handling its job, though 43 percent would like to see their member of Congress re-elected, a bit higher than among all adults.

Republicans have an edge among this group as the party more preferred to control Congress, 43 percent to 34 percent, with 23 percent saying it doesn’t matter.

That’s mostly because more of them are Republicans. Among those most likely to vote, 48 percent identify as Republicans or lean toward Republicans, while 40 percent are Democrats or lean toward them.


The July poll marks the second in a row in which the president’s favorability rating tilted negative. Overall, 51 percent have an unfavorable impression of the president compared with 44 percent who have a favorable take. Before his re-election in 2012, Obama’s favorability rating was consistently in majority territory in AP-GfK polling, bottoming out at 53 percent in December 2011.

JENNIFER AGIESTA, Associated Press

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