The Election and the Economy

The president's at a new low in approval, most registered voters prefer a Republican Congress to rein in his policies and there's an even split in House vote preferences. But another result in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll also is notable: The role of the economy in these views.

We've tested it with regression analyses, a statistical technique measuring the relationship between two variables while holding all other available factors constant. The question: Are economic views just a function of partisan predispositions, or do they relate independently - above and beyond party affiliation - to preferences in the 2014 election?

The answer is that they do. Partisanship, of course, is the single strongest predictor of House vote intention and desires as to which party controls Congress. But views of the economy's condition are the next-strongest independent predictor of those same outcomes. Simply put, holding partisanship (and other factors) constant, the more likely you are to think that the economy's in bad shape or getting worse, the more likely you are to favor Republican candidates and GOP control. That reflects the damage to the president - and by extension his party - from the still-struggling economy five-plus years since he took office.

That result shows a glimmer of opportunity for the Democrats, but also marks the strength of the Republicans' hand. Just 29 percent of Americans say the economy's doing well - a dreary rating, even if the most positive since November 2007 - and only 28 percent say it's getting better. If those numbers grow, the Democrats should benefit. If they stay weak, it's advantage GOP. In either case it's objective conditions - not jawboning - that's likely to tell the tale.

In addition to economic views and political partisanship, we used age, race, education, income, gender, region and religious belief as control variables in the analysis. The models are highly robust, explaining 68 percent of the variance in House vote preference and 59 percent of the variance in views on control of Congress.

The findings show that, for all the push and pull of political preferences and the vagaries of turnout, a significant chunk of the 2014 outcome - as in many elections past - is likely to be about the economy.

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