Voters hate Congress, but it may not matter in 2014

Updated
In this Nov. 16, 2012, file photo House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), second from left, House Speaker,John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Minority Leader,...
In this Nov. 16, 2012, file photo House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), second from left, House Speaker,John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Minority Leader,...
Photo Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Eighty-three percent of respondents disapprove of Congress, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Nearly six in 10 want to replace their member of Congress. Just 29% believe the country is on the right track.

Sounds like a recipe for a change election in 2014? Maybe not.

The same NBC/WSJ poll shows that, due to such deeply divided (and gerrymandered) partisan districts, the result could be another neutral political environment with neither party holding the upper hand.

The generic ballot in the poll is tied, with 44% of voters preferring a Democratic-controlled Congress and 44% preferring a Republican-controlled one. In a midterm year, with typically increased GOP turnout, Democrats usually need to have a significant edge on the generic ballot to have an advantage.

But the survey also took a further look at how issues were penetrating in both GOP and Democratic districts, showing even deeper divides that make it harder for the opposite party to win over an increasingly shrinking House battlefield.

Unsurprisingly, in GOP and Democratic districts, views of President Obama are mirror opposites. In GOP districts, 58% said they disapprove of the president; in Democratic districts, 56% approve of the job Obama is doing.

In Republican districts, 54% of respondents want a GOP-dominated Congress. In Democratic districts, 57% said they want a Democratic Congress.

This polarization shows that even with such a high-level of dissatisfaction with Congress, many voters might be reluctant in casting votes for the opposition party.

But what gives both parties nearly simultaneous worry and optimism is that such widespread unrest and unhappiness has predicted mass electoral turnover before–in both 1992 (spurred by the House check scandal that touched both parties) and in 2010 (with unhappiness over health care and the nation’s economy).

Both parties see elements they hope will give them a way to appeal to votes, but also privately acknowledge that with such a compressed battlefield, it won’t be easy. Republicans might find hope in these numbers: 34% said the health-care law was a good idea, versus 47% who viewed it as a bad idea. Democrats, for their part, hope Americans will put blame on the GOP for congressional logjams in Congress as 56% of respondents said House Republicans are too rigid in dealing with the president.

Voters hate Congress, but it may not matter in 2014

Updated