The Associated Press trumpets the latest AP/Ipsos poll, with the headline: “Most Americans Plan to Vote for Democrats:”
Republicans are in jeopardy of losing their grip on Congress in November. With less than four months to the midterm elections, the latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that Americans by an almost 3-to-1 margin hold the GOP-controlled Congress in low regard and profess a desire to see Democrats wrest control after a dozen years of Republican rule.
This is a howler, of course: the poll respondents wanted Democrats to win by 51% to 40%, not “almost 3-to-1.” In any event, the AP can hardly wait:
[A] Democratic takeover of either the House or Senate would be disastrous for the president, leaving both his agenda for the last two years in office and the chairmanship of investigative committees in the hands of the opposition party.
Why, exactly, would it be so disastrous for the Dems to win the House or Senate? When is the last time a President served for eight years with his party controlling both houses of Congress the entire time? Without doing the research, I’m sure you would have to go back at least to Franklin Roosevelt.
Of course, generic preference polls have little or nothing to do with actual races between specific candidates in the relatively few districts that are up for grabs. And, in any event, just about all polls (and all registered voter polls) exaggerate the Democrats’ strength. As Sweetness & Light points out, the AP/Ipsos poll sampled 53% Democrats and 41% Republicans. Hence the fact that Democrats were preferred by eleven points. But in the last several Congressional elections, there have been more votes cast for Republican candidates than Democratic candidates. So either thirteen or fourteen percent of American voters have changed their party affiliation in the last year and a half, or AP/Ipsos grotesquely over-sampled Democrats.
But what else is new? I love this line from the AP report:
The president’s party historically has lost seats in the sixth year of his service. Franklin D. Roosevelt lost 72 House seats in 1938; Dwight D. Eisenhower 48 in 1958. The exception was Bill Clinton in 1998.
By another comparison, polls in 1994 _ when a Republican tidal wave swept Democrats from power _ the two parties were in a dead heat in July on the question of whom voters preferred in their district.
The AP implies that the Republicans are really in for it, since in 1994 the polls were even and the out-party still romped. The reporter myopically overlooks the more obvious interpretation: polls were over-sampling Democrats in 1994, too.
UPDATE: Levi from Queens did the research:
I did the research when you questioned how far back you would have to go to find an eight year president whose party had control of Congress for all eight years. I knew it was much further than Roosevelt. As both Grant and Jackson lost control of a house of Congress after six years, you actually have to go all of the way back to Monroe to find that situation.
Additionally, the Republicans had control of both houses through the twelve years of the McKinley-Roosevelt administrations. They only fail to appear above because neither served a full eight years.
FURTHER UPDATE: Mark Johnson points out that Monroe’s streak is stil intact, since “Jumping Jim” Jeffords gave the Dems control of the Senate for much of 2001-2002. Of course, how could I forget that? So the Republicans, if they prevail in November, will have the distinction of having been elected to the majority in both houses for all eight years they had a President in the White House, for the first time since the Monroe administration (although Roosevelt-McKinley probably also counts). The correction amplifies my point, though; the Daschle period in the Senate was hardly a disaster for the Bush administration. Of course, the Dems are wackier now than they were then. But it isn’t obvious that giving them greater scope to display that wackiness would be disastrous, either.