Discontent, however, is an equal-opportunity employer: While incumbents are in trouble, things are looking rocky for the insurgency as well. Unfavorable views of the tea party movement have spiked by 11 points, to 50 percent, up from 39 percent in March, with fewer undecided. Favorable views have slipped by five points in the same period, to 36 percent. Having more people see you unfavorably than favorably is not a working political strategy.
The change has come equally among Democrats and independents -- the latter the crucial swing voters in election politics. And young people especially have turned away, their unfavorable views of the tea party rising by a dramatic 22 points, from 38 percent in March to 60 percent now. However, such views are up by 12 points among seniors -- and by 13 points among conservatives, the movement's ideological base.
Some features of tea party admirers remain intact. In this group, for example, anger at the way the federal government is working soars to 42 percent, compared with an also-high 36 percent among Republicans and conservatives alike.
DIVISION AND RISK -- Forty-seven percent of registered voters say they'd vote for the Democrat in their Congressional district if the election were today, 44 percent the Republican. The GOP, though, gets a boost among likely voters -- a D-R race of 44-48 percent -- underscoring the Democrats' challenges turning out some of their base groups, especially young voters.
Although the public's mood especially endangers the majority party, Democrats are retaining the edge in another important measure: Americans trust them over the Republicans to handle the country's biggest problems, 44 percent to 32 percent. That's worsened slightly for the GOP, which scored 37 percent against the Democrats in February. A measure worth watching, it's one on which the Republicans battled to parity before the 1994 elections. (The GOP held a rare advantage on this measure in 2002, in a rally to the in-power party during the aftermath of 9/11.)
One reason is support in their respective bases. More liberals trust the Democrats to handle the country's main problems, 69 percent, than conservatives trust the Republicans, 51 percent.
Still, while the Democrats lead in trust to handle the main problems overall, it's a closer contest on another key issue: which party has the best ideas about the right size and role of government. On this, 45 percent pick the Democrats, 40 percent the Republicans; among likely voters it's reversed, 41 percent to 44 percent. That, plus President Obama's 56 percent disapproval on the deficit, coupled with doubts about the effect of the stimulus, make for a handy election-year cudgel.
Given the circumstances, Obama's holding his own, with a 52 percent job approval rating overall, boosted by vast loyalty in his own party -- 82 percent approval -- and a still-high 74 percent approval rating from liberals (albeit a new low, by a scant 2 points).
But the number of Americans who think the president "understands the problems of people like you," at 51 percent, is down from 56 percent in a Washington Post poll in late March; and at 57 percent his rating as a strong leader is down from 65 percent in March. Both are much farther below their peaks early in his presidency.