Republicans trail Democrats by 7 percentage points on the generic congressional ballot, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, the Democratic Party’s greatest advantage on the generic ballot since the poll began asking the question this past spring.
The survey, conducted last Thursday through Saturday, shows a generic Democrat leading a generic Republican, 44 percent to 37 percent, with 19 percent of registered voters undecided. The two parties were tied, 40 percent apiece, in the previous week’s poll.
The results came on the heels of a week in which the GOP effort to repeal Obamacare crashed and burned in the Senate and President Donald Trump’s chief of staff left the White House abruptly.
Democrats’ previous high-water mark on the generic ballot question — which asks voters which party they would support in a congressional election without mentioning specific candidate names — had been a 6-point lead in early May.
Democratic voters back the Democratic candidate by an almost-unanimous margin, 90 percent to 2 percent. Republicans are slightly less unified, supporting the GOP candidate, 85 percent to 5 percent. Among independents, the Democrat leads, 34 percent to 25 percent, with 41 percent undecided.
Even as the GOP slumped on the generic ballot, Trump’s approval ratings held fairly steady over the past week. In the new poll, 42 percent of voters approve of the job he is doing as president, while 53 percent disapprove. Last week, 43 percent of voters approved of Trump, and 52 percent disapproved.
Still, the long-term trend for Trump has been downward — and it has the potential to drag down Republicans in elections this year and into the 2018 midterms.
"In our poll taken immediately following President Trump’s inauguration, 31 percent of independent voters disapproved of him," said Morning Consult Co-founder and Chief Research Officer Kyle Dropp. "In this latest poll, that number has nearly doubled to 56 percent. What’s more, the percentage of voters who ‘strongly’ disapprove has jumped from 23 percent to 41 percent in that same time period."
That slide connects to the GOP’s electoral prospects. Among voters who strongly approve of Trump in the new poll, 79 percent of them prefer the Republican congressional candidate, while 8 percent would vote for the Democrat. By contrast, 80 percent of voters who strongly disapprove of Trump would vote for the Democrat, and 8 percent would back the Republican.
The problem for Republicans: While 41 percent of the electorate strongly disapproves of Trump, far fewer, only 22 percent, strongly approve of his job performance.
Intensity isn’t the only worry for the GOP: There is the basic fact that more voters disapprove of the job Trump is doing than approve. In the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, 71 percent of voters who approve of Trump’s job performance even somewhat would vote for the Republican candidate, compared to 72 percent of those who disapprove who are backing the Democrat.
The new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll was conducted during a tumultuous close to the week for Trump and his party. The poll was already in the field early Friday morning, when the Senate voted down the latest GOP bill to repeal parts of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Similarly, some interviews had already been conducted when Trump announced that he was replacing Chief of Staff Reince Priebus with John Kelly, the now-former secretary of homeland security.
Previously released poll results show a majority of voters believe the Trump White House is running chaotically, even before some of the most recent turnover.
The poll was fielded after Trump sharply criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions in public comments and on Twitter. A 53-percent majority of voters say Trump’s statement that he would not have appointed Sessions if he knew the then-senator would later recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election is inappropriate; only 27 percent say Trump’s comments are appropriate.
In another controversial statement last week, Trump announced on Twitter that the U.S. would not “accept or allow” transgender individuals to serve in the military, though any transgender ban has yet to take effect. Voters generally disagree with Trump: By a 68 percent to 21 percent margin, voters believe the U.S. should allow transgender members of the military to continue serving. And 55 percent say the military should allow transgender individuals to join, while only 31 percent say they should be barred from joining.
Sixty-seven percent of voters do say, however, that the military shouldn’t pay for gender-transition expenses, compared to only 21 percent who think the military should pay for that treatment. Trump cited “tremendous medical costs” for transgender personnel in explaining his decision.
The poll surveyed 1,972 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Morning Consult is a nonpartisan media and technology company that provides data-driven research and insights on politics, policy and business strategy.