Americans overwhelmingly consider Republicans to be out of touch, and they trust them less than Democrats on the issues -- but that doesn't mean the GOP is in bad shape for the 2014 elections.
That's the takeaway from a Washington Post/ABC poll released Tuesday morning, closely echoing a New York Times/CBS survey last month that found Americans saw the GOP as divided, pessimistic and "out of step with the public on a range of issues," but planned to vote for them regardless.
Respondents to the Post/ABC poll evenly trusted both parties on the economy, and gave the GOP a slim edge on its ability to handle the federal budget deficit. Democrats, however, had a 13-point advantage on helping the middle class, and an 8-point edge on handling health care, energy policy and immigration, according to the poll.
Asked whether President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party are in touch with the public's concerns, Americans were about evenly split. But 68 percent said the Republican party is out of touch -- including about 40 percent of those who identify as Republicans themselves.
Such results might be expected to take an electoral toll on the GOP, but asked who they'd prefer to send to Congress this November, voters were evenly divided, with 46 preferring a generic Democrat and 45 percent a generic Republican.
The Republicans have a few structural factors working for them. Midterm elections tend to favor the party that's not in the White House, and the current mood is strongly anti-incumbent. Just 22 percent of voters say they'd like to see their congressional representative reelected, the lowest in the Post/ABC's polling since 1989. Americans' views of the economy also remain bearish, with just 18 percent saying it has recovered strongly. Obama's approval rating has remained mired in the 40s since last fall.
But the "generic House" vote question is also an imperfect measure, especially this far ahead of the election. In 2013, Democrats' numbers surged during the government shutdown, before plunging in the aftermath of Obamacare implementation. Political scientist Alan Abramowitz notes that polls taken before late summer have little predictive value, and the Post's Dan Balz and Scott Clement caution that "less than half of eligible voters are expected to cast ballots, and the size of Republicans’ typical midterm edge is unclear."
The Post/ABC poll surveyed 1,002 adults by phone between Feb. 27 and March 2.