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Growing Democratic Issue Advantage

by Ruy Teixeira

Last week, I noted how an intense anti-incumbent mood seems to be brewing, unlike anything we’ve seen since 1994. This week, I draw your attention to some very interesting data released by the Pew Research Center which suggest that the Democrats are gaining an issue advantage of unusual magnitude that might feed that anti-incumbent mood.

In the Pew survey, they first asked respondents what they thought the most important national problem was, followed by a query about which party could best handle that problem. The result was a 41-27 advantage for the Democrats on handling the most important national problem. That 14 point gap is the largest measured by either Pew or Gallup since this question was first asked in 1987. By way of comparison, the GOP had an 11 point advantage on this measure in March, 2002 and a 3 point advantage in July, 1994.

These data can be broken down by the type of national problem cited by respondents. Democrats had strong advantages in every area but one (security/terrorism): the economy (+21); social/domestic (+22); Iraq (+19); and foreign policy (+30). This compares to last January, when Republicans were actually favored overall and on social/domestic issues (by a point) and Democrats only led by 5 points on Iraq and 17 points on foreign policy. Even on security/terrorism, while the GOP still leads by 18 points today, that’s down from an overwhelming 39 point margin at the beginning of last year.

More evidence that we are headed for a very interesting election that could see some big changes.