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Analysis: The latest sign Democrats face a daunting midterm year

And now, a new analysis of polling from Gallup highlights how rapidly the Democrats’ standing with the public has deteriorated since the start of Biden’s term.
Gallup found that in their polls conducted in the first quarter of 2021, an average of 49% of Americans identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party, compared to 40% for the Republican Party. (That represented the largest lead Democrats held on this metric since the fourth quarter of 2012.)
But by the fourth quarter of 2021, the Democrats’ average advantage had completely vanished: 47% of those surveyed identified with or leaned toward the GOP, compared to 42% for the Democrats — a net swing of 14 points.
According to Gallup, a shift this dramatic is not the norm. In fact, the Republicans’ five-point edge in party preference is the largest they have established over the Democrats since 1995 — right after the GOP took control of the House for the first time in four decades.
These results should be taken with a grain of salt: other public pollsters have not found as massive of a swing in party preference as Gallup has. What’s more, changes of this magnitude — especially around political events that are more negative for one party over the other, such as January 6 in the first quarter of the year and the Democrats’ losses in off-year elections in November in the last quarter — may be a sign of differences in the number of partisans who choose to participate in polls rather than of real shifts in attitudes.
In its report, Gallup notes these changes in party preference happened at the same time as a drop in the President’s approval rating. At the beginning of 2021, Biden and his party were in a position of strength, pledging a departure from former President Donald Trump’s divisive tenure and relief from the coronavirus pandemic. By the end of the year, though, public opinion turned, with Covid-19 still rampant, inflation soaring and the Democrats’ policy agenda stalled in Congress.
It all adds up to a political environment that is only getting more treacherous for the Democrats as they prepare to defend their narrow majorities in the House and Senate this fall.
The Point: Gallup’s results are just the latest in a long string of ominous data points for the Democrats heading into the midterms. And if history is any guide, they don’t have much time to turn things around.
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