Democrats had a difficult 2021, the kind of year that will likely hurt them in the November midterm elections.
Empirically speaking, the president’s party almost always loses ground in Congress during midterms. In nearly every such election since the end of World War II, the party in the White House has received a lower share of the popular vote in the House than in the prior election.
In the 19 midterm elections from 1946 to 2018, that party only improved its share of the House popular vote once—2002—while the president’s party has lost House seats in every midterm since 2006.
But a new Gallup poll shows that the public standing of President Joe Biden’s party has dropped rapidly over the last year, raising the likelihood that it will face a serious shellacking in November.
In the first quarter of 2021, about 49% of Americans identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party, compared with just 40% for the Republican Party, according to Gallup. By the fourth quarter, however, that advantage had been completely lost, with 47% of Americans surveyed identifying with or leaning toward the GOP, and just 42% of Americans identifying as Democrats.
That’s a swing of 14 points in just one year, the largest shift Gallup has seen in its 30 years of polling.
The Republicans’ five-point lead in party preference is also the largest advantage they’ve had over Democrats since 1996 when the GOP took control of the House for the first time in 40 years.
The change in numbers, Gallup noted, aligned closely with a downward trend in President Biden’s popularity.
“With control of the House of Representatives and Senate at stake in this year’s midterm elections, party preferences will be a key indicator of which party will be better positioned to gain majorities in the next session of Congress,” wrote Jeffrey Jones, senior editor at Gallup.
In the House, Democrats currently hold a slim 10-seat majority. In the Senate, it’s even tighter, with Democrats and Republicans tied at 50 seats each, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie to give Democrats the majority.
In the year since taking control of the White House, Congress, and Senate, Democrats have been able to achieve some movement on their largest legislative projects: Build Back Better, and a large voting rights bill. But at the same time, COVID-19 is still raging and inflation is at record highs.
Meanwhile, Republicans, who control a majority of state houses, have been able to redraw many Congressional districts in their favor, giving them a leg up in the upcoming elections. It has only added to the feeling of impending doom for Democrats.
The outlook is so bad that prominent Democrats have taken to the public to express their dismay. ”I have zero doubt that unless we significantly improve the lives of the American people this year, Democrats will get wiped out in the 2022 midterm elections,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent who aligns with Democrats, said in a recent interview with The Guardian.
Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio, told The New York Times that “it seems like the Democrats can’t get out of their own way. The Democrats have got to do a better job of being clear on what they’re trying to do.”
Steadfast supporters of the Democrats are also showing their frustration. Members of some civil rights groups boycotted Bidens’ voting rights speech in Atlanta last week because they were disappointed with his inability to push the issue. Six of Biden’s former public health advisers also aired their criticisms of his handling of the pandemic.
President Biden, meanwhile, took a page out of former president Donald Trump’s poll-denying book on Wednesday during a press conference in the East Room of the White House.
“How do you plan to win back moderates and independents who cast a ballot for you in 2020, but polls indicate they are unhappy with the way you’re doing your job now?” a reporter asked.
The president simply answered, “I don’t believe the polls.”
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