The rising and falling fortunes of the Republican presidential candidates has — at least until recently — produced a field where everyone is seemingly in contention and yet no one can be decided upon. It’s a practical problem for Republicans, as the Iowa caucuses are now less than a month away, so the time for a choice is nigh. But according to new data from the Pew Research Center and the Washington Post, the fluidity of the race is not just a frustrating affair for the party faithful — independent and Democratic voters are also turned off by the whole thing.
A plurality of independents — 29 percent — say that their impression of the Republican Party is souring having watched the primary process play out the way it has, along with 53 Democrats, who likely didn’t think much of Republicans in the first place. Ten percent of indies say the primary race has made their view of the GOP rosier, and 55 percent say its made no difference at all.
But while the Republican Party is causing a self-inflicted wound, there’s also some collateral damage. Pew ‘s numbers show that they are also damaging the President, although the divide is much smaller.
“About one-in-five (19%) say their impression of Obama has improved as they learn more about the Republicans,” Pew wrote in their report. “About as many (21%) say that the GOP campaign is worsening their impression of the president. Most (58%) say the Republicans have had no effect on their feelings about Obama…Among independents, 14% say the GOP campaign has improved their impression of Obama while 20% say it has made them more critical of the president. Nearly two-thirds (64%) say their opinion remains the same.”
The results are a microcosm of how the perceived weak field of GOP candidates could fare against Obama. The President has had an underwater job approval for months, and disfavor among independent voters has been a large part of that. But polling shows that those same unaffiliated voters aren’t pleased with the crop of the President’s possible opposition either. So the Pew data puts into numbers what’s been known for a while: that a good Republican candidate would do very well against Obama in matchups as the race currently stands, but that candidate might not exist.
Kyle is the Editor of TPM Media’s PollTracker. He graduated from Beloit College (WI) and began working in politics before getting an M.A. in magazine journalism from New York University, where he interned at TPM and the website of The New Yorker.