Republicans Edge Ahead of Democrats in 2010 Vote

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Registered voters prefer Republicans for the House, 48% to 44%

PRINCETON, NJ -- Republicans have moved ahead of Democrats by 48% to 44% among registered voters in the latest update on Gallup's generic congressional ballot for the 2010 House elections, after trailing by six points in July and two points last month.

2010 Generic Congressional Ballot -- Preferences of Registered Voters -- 2009 Trend

"Over the course of the year, independents' preference for the Republican candidate in their districts has grown."

The Nov. 5-8 update comes just after Republican victories in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial elections, which saw Republicans replace Democrats as governors of those states.

As was the case in last Tuesday's gubernatorial elections, independents are helping the Republicans' cause. In the latest poll, independent registered voters favor the Republican candidate by 52% to 30%. Both parties maintain similar loyalty from their bases, with 91% of Democratic registered voters preferring the Democratic candidate and 93% of Republican voters preferring the Republican.

2010 Generic Congressional Ballot Vote Preference, by Political Party

Over the course of the year, independents' preference for the Republican candidate in their districts has grown, from a 1-point advantage in July to the current 22-point gap.

2010 Generic Congressional Ballot Vote Preference, Among Independents -- 2009 Trend

The overall results would predict a likely strong Republican showing if the House elections were held today. Though the registered-voter results reported here speak to the preferences of all eligible voters, voter turnout is crucial in determining the final outcome of midterm elections. Gallup will not begin to model likely turnout until much closer to the 2010 elections, but given that Republicans usually have a turnout advantage, if normal turnout patterns prevail in the coming election, prospects for a good Democratic showing appear slim. Of course, the elections are still nearly 12 months away and conditions could shift back in the Democrats' favor over this time.

Since Gallup regularly began using the generic ballot to measure registered voters' preferences for the House of Representatives in 1950, it has been rare for Republicans to have an advantage over Democrats. This is likely because more Americans usually identify as Democrats than as Republicans, but Republicans can offset this typical Democratic advantage in preferences with greater turnout on Election Day. Most of the prior Republican registered-voter leads on the generic ballot in Gallup polling occurred in 1994 and 2002, two strong years for the GOP.

Bottom Line

Roughly a year before the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans seem well-positioned to win back some of their congressional losses in 2006 and 2008. Independents are increasingly coming to prefer the Republican candidate for Congress, and now favor the GOP by 22 points. Political conditions could still shift between now and Election Day to create a more favorable environment for Democratic candidates, but a Republican lead on the generic ballot among registered voters has been a sign of a strong Republican showing at the polls in the coming election.

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Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 894 registered voters, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 5-8, 2009. 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 land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

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.

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