Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Democrats Are in Trouble

The Democrats are in trouble. New polls show them losing ground when matched up with the Republicans. An NPR poll showed Republicans leading Democrats in the generic congressional vote by 1%. A Rasmussen poll had the margin at 3%. At the same time, the NPR poll gives President Obama a 53% approval rating while Rasmussen gives him only a 49% rating, with 50% disapproving.

In some ways this isn’t surprising. President Obama’s approval rating has been declining for some time now, as I noted here.

I think there are three reasons for the slip in support for the Democrats.

The first is the state of the economy. The economy is still shedding jobs, and people are worried about when it will improve. I think that that will take a while as I detailed here, so the Democrats will have to face mounting voter frustration for some time. The party in power is usually blamed for a bad economy. For example, while most people remember Reagan as a popular President, his approval rating dipped substantially during the intense recession in the early 1980s. In fact, in January of 1983, 50% of Americans disapproved of the job he was doing. His rating recovered when the economy did.

Second, I think the Sotomayor confirmation hearings have hurt the Democrats with certain groups, particularly working class white voters. She has turned out to be fairly divisive. A Zogby poll found that Americans who know enough to form an opinion are evenly split, 49% to 49% on whether she should be confirmed. All-important independent voters oppose her by a margin of 55% to 44%.

This is surely because of her infamous “wise Latina comments” and her ruling in the New Haven firefighter case. Taken together, these have caused the impression that she might not be fair to whites. And they have sparked a national conversation on affirmative action, and our culture of political correctness. The Democrats mostly support affirmative action, and a Democratic President nominated Sotomayor.

Third, Democrats are running into trouble on healthcare. There has been a considerable campaign waged against Democratic proposals to expand coverage. People have been hearing that their care will be rationed, and that they will be forced onto a government-run plan. Moreover, this comes at a time when Americans are concerned about government debt.

I think all of this explains the problems the Democrats are having.

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