Increasingly disenchanted with President Obama's work on the stalled economy, registered voters by an 8-point margin say they'd prefer to see the Republicans take control of Congress – the clearest sign yet of GOP opportunities and Democratic risks in the 2010 midterm elections.
A year and a half into his presidency, 51 percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll would rather have the Republicans run Congress "to act as a check on Obama's policies," vs. 43 percent who want the Democrats in charge to help support those policies. That's accompanied by a 7-point, one-month drop in approval of Obama's handling of the economy, to a career low.
While Democrats are most at risk, the danger's not theirs alone. Registered voters by 62-26 percent are inclined to look around for someone new for Congress rather than to re-elect their current representative – the broadest anti-incumbency on record in ABC/Post polls since 1989. Backing for incumbents has lost 11 points since February, an unusually steep decline.
There are other signs of raging discontent: ABC's Frustration Index remains well in the red zone, at 67 on its scale of 0 to 100, right where it's been all year. It's reached higher just twice, likewise in times of deep economic trouble – in fall 2008, 80; and in 1992, 73.
The index is based on anti-incumbency, ratings of the economy – 90 percent say it's in bad shape – dissatisfaction with the government overall and presidential approval. The latter's another tough one for Obama: His job approval rating has slipped to 50 percent, tying his career low in ABC/Post polls, with 47 percent disapproving. Those who "strongly" disapprove outnumber strong approvers by 7 points, the widest such margin to date.
If the question has been when Obama owns the economy, it looks to be now – not at a happy time, given 9.5 percent unemployment. He'd made slight progress on this key issue, inching ahead from 45 percent approval on the economy in March to 50 percent in June. That's now gone, down 7 points in this poll to 43 percent, with 54 percent disapproving, a new high. And "strong" disapprovers outnumber strong approvers by a record 41 percent vs. 20 percent.
Saying the economy's getting better, moreover, may not help Obama and the Democrats, and indeed could hurt. Just 27 percent in this poll see it improving, not significantly different from 30 percent last month, and surely not on the way up. Claiming the economy was advancing when most Americans didn't see it was the precisely the pothole that swallowed George H.W. Bush in his unsuccessful re-election bid in 1992.
It's not all about Obama; even among people who approve of his job performance, 51 percent are inclined to look for someone new for Congress. But that rises to 72 percent of disapprovers. And by another gauge, anti-incumbency stands at 47 percent among Democrats who are registered to vote, but 71 percent among Republicans – and an ominous 70 percent among independents, quintessential swing voters.