NOT MUCH OF A WELCOME PARTY…. When Republicans took the congressional majority in 1994, a clear majority of the public was happy about the change in power. When Congress switched again in 2006, an even larger majority was pleased with the new incoming majority and its agenda.

For all the assumptions among Republicans about voters giving them a mandate, and public support for what the GOP intends to do, there’s ample evidence to the contrary.

Americans may have put Republicans back in charge of the House and strengthened the party’s hand in the Senate in the 2010 elections, but there is little excitement about the results or optimism for the future, according to a new Pew poll.

Less than half — 48 percent — described themselves as “happy” that Republicans took over the House, while 34 percent said they were “unhappy” about the power change. Those numbers compare very unfavorably to how people felt when Democrats took over the House in 2006 (60 percent happy/24 percent unhappy) and when Republicans reclaimed the House majority in 1994 (57 percent happy/ 31 percent unhappy).

That lack of genuine excitement about the election is paired with an uncertainty about Republican policies for the future. Forty-one percent approved of the GOP’s plans while 37 percent disapproved — far below the 50 percent approve/21 percent disapprove for Democratic plans when they took over in the 2006 election…. The Republicans’ victory then is best understood as a rejection of Democratic policies by voters rather than a warm embrace of the policies put forward by the GOP.

For two weeks, GOP leaders have been claiming to speak for the country. The “American people” gave them a House majority to cut taxes. The “American people” empowered them to cut spending and reduce the deficit. The “American people” want Republicans to gut the health care system and cut education spending.

Reality check: the “American people” think the economy stinks so they punished the incumbent majority. Republicans made gains because they were the alternative, not because they were right.

We’re talking about the first time in recent memory in which an unpopular party was replaced with an even more unpopular party. That should be a weight on GOP shoulders, not a chip on GOP shoulders.

If Republicans think they’re ahead because voters are buying what they’re selling, they’re badly misreading the election results.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.