It depends on how you define ‘less popular’

IT DEPENDS ON HOW YOU DEFINE ‘LESS POPULAR’…. In announcing its new national poll on the popularity of the political parties, CNN notes, “Democratic Party less popular, but more Americans still think country better off in their hands.” That’s true, but it’s a little convoluted.

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The poll asked respondents which party should have the congressional majority. A 44% plurality favored Dems, while 34% preferred Republicans. Democratic numbers are down a bit from April, but Republican numbers haven’t improved. (“Neither” got a bump, and is up to 15%.)

In terms of popularity, though, the headline is a little misleading. The poll shows 41% of Americans with a favorable view of the Republican Party, while 50% have an unfavorable view. The favorable numbers are up slightly (two points) since April, but the rating hasn’t changed much since last fall. For Democrats, the numbers are reversed — 52% favorable, 39% unfavorable. It’s hardly a favorable landscape for the minority.

So, what about becoming “less popular”? Well, in April, Democrats had 51%-41% favorable/unfavorable ratings. In other words, over the last few months, Dems’ numbers haven’t gone down at all. Dems are only “less popular” if you ignore the April poll and compare the party’s numbers from February.

Or as Atrios put it, “If you skip the intervening poll, you get to tell a pleasing story. Actual story: Dems were pretty damn popular in February. That popularity declined by April, and has pretty much stayed flat sense. Not quite as pleasing of a story for your liberal media.”

As for the bigger picture, CNN’s report did get one key detail right: “[T]he Republican party has not been able to capitalize on the Democrats’ downturn.”

I think “downturn” is clearly the wrong word here, but the point is, while Dems’ numbers have declined since the start of the year, the GOP has not yet positioned itself to take advantage.