With less than four months to go before the fall elections, the greatest growth industry in the country right now is the tea importation business: everybody who has any interest in the November results is trying his or her hand at precognition. Gallup is no exception:
This year's low approval ratings for Congress are a potentially ominous sign for President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress. Gallup has found greater party seat change in Congress in midterm elections when Congress has had low approval ratings.
Specifically, in the five midterm elections in which Congress' approval ratings at the time of the election were below 40%, there was an average net change in seats of 29 from the president's party to the opposition. That includes the 1994 and 2006 elections, when the net change in seats was large enough to pass control of the U.S. House from one party to the other.
They currently track Congress's approval rating at 20%.This chart from the article handily shows the problem with trying to come up with a good number, though:
As you can see, the numbers go all over the map - and even if you just look at situations where one party controls both Congress and the Presidency, you're left with too many possibilities. Is this going to be 2006, where the GOP lost 30 seats (and the House, although 30 won't do it this time)? Is this going to be 1994, where the Democrats lost 53 seats (and the House)? Or is it going to be 1978, where the Democrats only lost 11? Looking at Presidential approval ratings doesn't help much there, either: Clinton and Carter enjoyed relatively similar ratings at the equivalent points in their careers, and the range between their party's respective losses in the midterm is almost as large as it can get.
Does this mean that the Democrats are saved? Of course not: they're widely hated, directly responsible for some appalling legislation, mistrusted on most of the topics of the day, completely outclassed when it comes to partisan enthusiasm, long since lost the independent vote, beholden to the smallest ideological faction in American politics, reliant on voting demographics that show no sign of coming out in 2010, and largely fighting in territory that rightfully belongs to the GOP. The combined total of all of this should translate quite handily into a 2010 shellacking for the Democratic party, much to their displeasure, ire, and outrage. But the above is a better answer than 'Congress and the President are both below 50%.'
Mind you, the 20% thing is still really, really bad news.
Crossposted to Moe Lane.