Democrats lose their edge ahead of midterm elections, poll finds

Peter Mlekuz

A new Associated Press-GfK poll shows that Democrats have lost their edge over Republicans in a generic ballot for the 2014 midterms.

The poll, which surveyed adults across the country in late March, found that the two parties are in a dead heat when it comes to the upcoming elections. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they would vote for Democrats, compared to 37 percent who preferred Republicans.

As recently as January, Democrats beat Republicans on that question with 39 percent to the GOP's 32 percent. That could spell bad news for Democrats hoping to retain the Senate despite several close races that could cost them their majority.

Some of the trouble is with registered voters who are interested in politics. Republicans win with that group by a margin of 14 percentage points, 51 percent to 37 percent. As recently as January, 42 percent preferred Democrats and 45 percent preferred Republicans.

Democrats often have trouble turning out large numbers of supporters in midterm elections despite their success in the past two presidential contests. The enthusiasm gap is something President Obama has warned about.

"The challenge is that our politics in Washington have become so toxic that people just lose faith and finally they just say: 'You know what? I'm not interested, I'm not going to bother, I'm not going to vote,'" the president said at a recent Democratic Congressional Campaign fundraiser in Miami.

"In midterms we get clobbered - either because we don't think it's important or we've become so discouraged about what's happening in Washington that we think it's not worth our while," he said.

Obama's warnings were echoed by his former top strategist, David Axelrod, who tweeted a link to the poll over the weekend, writing, "Every bit of evidence points to stronger GOP turnout in a low turnout [election] this fall. Major hurdle for Ds."

Mr. Obama's current staff seems more optimistic. On CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer predicted that the Democrats would not lose the Senate.

The GOP is also benefitting from a more positive image lately from both outside and within the party. Thirty-eight percent say they hold a favorable opinion of the party, the poll found, and 72 percent of Republicans have a positive view of the GOP, up from 57 percent in January.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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