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Strong Disapproval Matters

By Alan Abramowitz

An analysis of National Election Study data on voting patterns in midterm elections between 1982 (when the NES began asking a presidential approval question) and 2004 indicates that voters with strong opinions of the president's performance are more likely to base their House vote on their opinion of the president than voters with only weak opinions. Moreover, voters with strong negative opinions are by far the most likely to base their House vote on their opinion of the president.

Across these six midterm elections, the average percentage of each group whose House vote was consistent with its opinion of the president's job performance was as follows:

Strongly approve 72%
Weakly approve 49%
Weakly disapprove 70%
Strongly disapprove 85%

With 44% of the public now strongly disapproving of George Bush's performance, these results provide further reason to expect substantial Democratic gains in the 2006 midterm elections.