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Poll Finds Challenging Midterm Backdrop For Democrats

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The 2014 elections are continuing to shape up as tough for Democrats, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday.

The survey found voters essentially tied on which party they'd rather have represent them in the House of Representatives -- 47 percent preferred a Democratic candidate and 45 percent a Republican.

"Historically, Democrats have needed a significantly bigger margin on this question to avoid losses," The Washington Post's Dan Balz and Scott Clement write. Four years ago, when Democrats held a 3-point lead in June, Republicans went on to retake the House in November. By contrast, when Democrats won the House and Senate in the 2006 midterms, the party was up 13 percentage points in June.

As has been extensively documented and endlessly lamented by the left, many of Democrats' core constituencies, including young and minority voters, are less likely to turn out during midterm elections. While the 2014 electorate is just beginning to take shape, that effect shows no sign of dissipating this year: Democrats are 7 points less likely than Republicans to report being sure they'll vote, nonwhite voters are 10 points less likely than white voters, and voters aged 18 to 39 are 13 points less likely than those 65 or over.

Another question for Democrats this year is whether President Barack Obama's approval rating, which has ticked up into the mid-40s since January, remains low enough to harm candidates downballot. While an April Washington Post/ABC poll was one of several to find his numbers dipping again, this latest survey finds him recovering to 46 percent, thanks largely to increased support from Democrats, "which could mean the April finding was an anomaly," according to Balz and Clement.

HuffPost Pollster's average of public polling puts Obama's approval at just under 45 percent, up from about 43 percent in January.

Approval of Obama on the economy remained relatively steady at 43 percent in the latest Washington Post/ABC poll. His rating on international affairs dropped by 6 points to 41 percent, the lowest measured by the pollsters, with opinions split on his handling of Afghanistan, although more than three-quarters supported his troop-reduction plan for the country. Nearly all Americans -- 97 percent -- view the problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs as serious, but just 38 percent say Obama deserves a great deal or a good amount of the blame.

The Washington Post/ABC poll surveyed 1,002 Americans from May 29 to June 1, using live telephone interviews to reach both landlines and cell phones.

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