PRINCETON, NJ -- While views regarding several facets of Democrats' ability to govern are down sharply since 2006, views about Republicans remain similar to those from the last midterm elections, when the GOP lost majority control of Congress -- but also similar to 1994, when it won majority control.
In general, Americans do not rate the Republican Party that highly on any of the four attributes tested, ranging from a low of 32% who think it has a clear plan for solving the country's problems to a high of 43% who believe it can bring about needed change.
Thus, the public does not appear to have a great deal of confidence in the Republican Party's ability to govern. And these perceptions have not changed much over the years even as voters have rendered very different judgments on the party's fate in Congress in recent midterm elections.
What have changed over the years are Americans' opinions of the Democratic Party on the same attributes. On all four, Americans were far more positive in their evaluations of the Democratic Party in 2006 than in 1994. An ominous sign for the Democratic Party is that the current results are similar to those from 1994, when Americans ended four decades of Democratic control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
In general, party groups are now less likely than four years ago to believe the various attributes apply to the Democratic Party, with sharp declines among independents and Republicans on most of these. Most notably, the percentage of independents who believe the Democratic Party can bring about needed change has fallen from 59% in 2006 to 34% today.
Polling on voters' 2010 vote intentions suggests Republicans are within range of taking back control of the U.S. House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. This is surely attributable to the decline in Americans' perceptions of the Democratic Party in recent years, although this has not been accompanied by a surge in positive perceptions of the GOP. Heading into the elections, Americans view both parties about equally unfavorably. This is yet another indication that potential Republican gains may not indicate a Republican mandate as much as a rejection of the Democrats.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 3, 2010, with a random sample of 1,000 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.