With five months to go before the general election, a new poll finds that Republicans have opened their widest lead yet when it comes to which party voters prefer this fall. Gallup’s generic congressional ballot finds that the number of voters who say they will vote GOP has jumped to 49 percent, compared with 43 percent for Democrats. That’s not only the biggest lead Gallup has recorded for the GOP this election cycle, it’s the largest lead Republicans have ever had in the poll, which Gallup has run since 1950.
Why are Republicans surging?
According to Gallup, the GOP gained 3 percentage points in the poll over the last week, while Dems fell 4 points. All of this happened as President Obama’s approval rating took a hit, especially with his handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Gallup puts Obama’s approval rating at 46 percent — not exactly in George W. Bush territory, but low for this White House.
No doubt critics will question how much a generic poll really reveals about what might happen in November. After all, it’s often better to break down races locally for a more comprehensive picture of how the midterm elections might go. But generic ballots are very good at telling us where voter sentiment is nationally and how enthusiastic people are — or aren’t — about the political parties.
One number that Democrats are surely not pleased about is what poll experts call the “enthusiasm” gap. According to Gallup, 39 percent of Republicans are excited about the 2010 elections, compared with just 24 percent of Democrats. That’s one of the leading measures of how likely it is that voters will turn out to vote, and if Democrats can’t find a way to close that 15-point gap, November could be a painful month for President Obama and other party leaders.
— Holly Bailey is a senior political writer for Yahoo! News.