Voter sentiment leading into the midterm elections continues to look like it could deliver Republicans a decisive victory and House control, according to a new survey done for NPR.
But the poll, done by Democratic pollster Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Republican pollster Public Opinion Strategies, suggests that, as bad as things seem now for Democrats, it was somewhat worse a few months ago.
In 58 battleground congressional districts with Democratic incumbents the firms surveyed in June and October, the pollsters found a tiny shift toward Democrats, underlining "tiny."
NPR's Mara Liasson, who will have a Morning Edition report Friday, asked Public Opinion's Glen Bolger if the pollsters picked up any signs to support recent Democratic interpretations of that Democratic prospects may not be so unremittingly bleak:
BOLGER: "Barely. Slightly better for Democrats because they've had, in the campaign, a spending advantage..."
Here's how small the positive change has been for Democrats. The Republican lead over Democrats in these 58 districts fell to three percentage points in October compared with an eight point GOP lead in June.
If the election for Congress were being held today, for whom would you vote:
So the Democrats are really fortunate the election wasn't held in the spring.
BOLGER: ... The Democrats have cut the deficit a little bit. But the key is, they still have the enthusiasm-gap problem where the Republican leads by more among the most interested voters.”
And they also have the problem where more voters in Democratic districts want a new person and fewer approve of their incumbent member of Congress.
It was for Democratic pollster Greenberg to provide his fellow party members with something more on which to hang on.
GREENBERG: On Republican seats, Republican members in the ten marginal seats, the disapproval has gone up six points. And the re-elect, whether you want to re-elect them, has dropped below 50.
And once you begin to have Republican seats, some of them being competitive, if you have five seats of these in play, potentially, it changes the overall number that you've got to cross to get to the threshold for control.
Small changes matter. And this is one of the first polls to show, I think, in a convincing and bi-partisan way that this might be real."
Among some of the poll's other findings:
In congressional districts in which there was a Democratic incumbent but where the Republican challenger had an even or better than even chance of winning the seat, voters really following the race preferred the Republican by a widening margin.
Needless to say, voters showing a high interest in a race are more likely to vote.
Districts where President Barack Obama got more than 55 percent of the vote in 2008 perform better for the Democratic candidate.
But here's the rub. A good many of the battleground districts on which the control of Congress rests tend to be more Republican districts where the president failed to get more than 55 percent.
Meanwhile, confirming what other polls have shown, most married men back Republican candidates. Most single women support Democratic candidates. The survey found married women and single men to be more split.
The survey results suggested that blaming Bush for the nation's economic woes is a fairly bipartisan message, finding a receptive audience in districts with Republican incumbents as well as those with Democratic House members.
(Here are more graphics related to the poll.)