This year keeps getting better and better for the GOP. After a sweeping victory in the 2014 midterm elections, Republicans are enjoying a surge of popularity as they stand poised to take control of Congress in January.
A new CNN/ORC poll out this morning reveals that the GOP’s approval rating has jumped 11 percentage points since last year, while the Democrats’ approval rating has remained static.
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About 41 percent of respondents say they approve of Republicans, compared to 30 percent last November, which followed the GOP-inflicted 16-day government shutdown. About 52 percent of respondents, meanwhile, have a negative view of the GOP, which is down from 64 percent last year.
The poll suggests that despite earlier concerns, the shutdown did not have lasting effects on the Republican brand. The GOP will not only control the House and Senate next year but 31 governorships and two-thirds of statehouses as well.
Gallup’s Andrew Dugan explained earlier this month why the speculation that Republicans would take a hit after the shutdown was short lived.
“While Republicans agreed to a compromise that ended the shutdown, the Obama administration made a number of political blunders, including the botched rollout of the federal government’s health care website, a series of international crises in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria, the Veterans Affairs hospitals scandal, and a criticized response to the first appearance of the Ebola virus on U.S. soil,” Dugan wrote on the Gallup site in mid-November. “Whatever momentum the Democrats gained during the government shutdown was lost.”
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The GOP’s increasing popularity and the success in the midterms can also be attributed to the public’s rejection of Democratic policies. About 74 percent of poll respondents attributed the Republicans’ success in the elections to the repudiation of the policies of Democrats, as opposed to support for GOP policies.
A Gallup poll immediately after the midterms showed Democrats with their lowest approval rating on record, at 36 percent. That was the first time since 2011 that Democrats had a lower rating than Republicans. President Obama’s rating has also floundered, with an approval of 39 percent—one of the lowest ever.
Gallup warned that although the GOP brand is improving, Republican popularity hinges on how the party uses its control of Congress in the year ahead.
“Neither party can say it is making significant progress in improving its image among the U.S. population, but undoubtedly the 2014 elections augmented the GOP’s ability to shape the agenda in Washington and in state capitals across the country,” Dugan wrote in an analysis on Gallup’s site. “This newfound power could pose its own problems for the GOP. The party could be on the verge of winning over a greater segment of the country or, not unlike the Democrats this year, could see its brand go into a free fall. This will depend on what Republican leaders do in the coming two years.”
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While more people approve of the GOP, at least 50 percent of respondents also say they think a Republican-controlled Congress will be bad for the country and expect there to be more political gridlock next year.
WHY THIS MATTERS
As GOP ratings improve, all eyes will be on the 2016 presidential candidates who will take on the presumptive candidate, Hillary Clinton. Four years ago, Mitt Romney had a shot at the prize. Will he throw his hat in the ring again?
Republicans leaders are not giving people a reason to think otherwise. Almost immediately, after the midterms, both House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the next majority leader, vowed to repeal Obamacare next year – a move that already has the president readying his veto pen.
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