April 13, 2010 3:47 pm ET - by Matt Finkelstein
Among political observers, there's a general consensus that Republicans will make significant gains in the 2010 midterm elections. The latest Gallup poll shows the minority party leading the generic Congressional ballot by a 48-44 percent margin.
What's less clear, however, is the cause of this dynamic. To hear Republican leaders tell it, President Obama and the Democratic majority have defied the will of the American people by spending too much and growing the size of the government. Meanwhile, they say, Republicans have found their way again after the big-spending Bush years and are winning over the public with "common sense" alternatives to Obama's agenda.
On the other side, progressives say that the party in power traditionally loses ground in midterm elections, and that those losses are likely to be greater due to public angst over the worse economic crisis since the Great Depression (which, of course, was brought on by failed Republican leadership).
A new report from Public Policy Polling sheds some light on what the voters are thinking:
The Republican Party may have a big election year anyway, but Americans sure don't think much of it or its leadership.
Only 28% of voters in the country say they approve of the current direction of the GOP with 51% disapproving. Even among voters who identify with the party just 54% say they like where it's headed. It's predictable that Democrats would give it very low marks but even among independents just 18% think the Republicans are headed in the right direction while 49% dissent.
One person who's not doing the party any favors is Michael Steele. Only 10% of Americans have a favorable opinion of him while 33% see him unfavorably. Even in his own party a plurality of voters have a negative view of him, with 19% saying they have an unfavorable opinion of him to 15% with a positive one.
Steele's low approval rating is unsurprising, but the party's congressional leadership is only slightly more popular than the struggling chairman. According to the poll, House Minority Leader John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are both seen favorably by just 15 percent of the public.
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