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New Survey Shows Cheney, Sotomayor Debates Threaten to Further Isolate GOP
Thursday, June 04 2009
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As Congress begins work on its hefty summer schedule, a new survey from Democracy Corps and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner shows that President Obama continues to enjoy a strong standing while the Republican brand remains deeply unpopular. Moreover, two of the most high-profile debates in Washington could damage the GOP further by isolating the party from the vast middle of the electorate.

Obama's Standing Remains Strong While Republican Brand Still in Shambles

President Obama's job approval stands at 57 percent among likely voters, virtually unchanged over the last four months and just a point off his all-time high. Meanwhile, the Republican Party sports a net favorability rating of -15 points (30 percent favorable, 45 percent unfavorable). By comparison, the Democratic Party enjoys a relatively strong +8 rating (46 percent favorable, 38 percent unfavorable). The image gap between the two parties also remains near its all-time high. And in a test of the 2010 congressional vote (using the incumbents' names), Democrats currently hold a 10-point advantage, a slight increase from their 2008 margin.

Dick Cheney's persistent visibility does not appear to be helping matters for the Republicans. With a net favorability of -20 (31 percent favorable, 51 percent unfavorable), the former vice president is at his lowest level of popularity since Democracy Corps first measured it in 1999. Cheney is a deeply divisive figure, popular only with the conservative base of the Republican Party but unpopular with everyone else, including independents (among whom he has net -26 favorability rating) and moderate Republicans. In fact, President Obama (+5) is more popular with moderate Republicans than Cheney (-9). Moreover, by a three-to-one margin (66 to 23 percent) likely voters reject Cheney's recent statement that he would prefer to see Rush Limbaugh, rather than Colin Powell, set the direction of the GOP. Again, only conservative Republicans side with Cheney, while Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans all strongly prefer Powell. Finally, voters reject Cheney's recent assault on the president over national security, choosing Obama over Cheney on who “has better ideas to keep the country safe" by a 12-point margin (twice the gap in partisan identification).

Sotomayor's nomination has created a similar dynamic. By a more than two-to-one margin (56 to 27 percent) likely voters approve of the nomination. This level of support is similar to that enjoyed by John Roberts, and exceeds those held by Harriet Miers and Samuel Alito, when they were nominated to the Court in 2005. More important, once again the base of the Republican Party finds itself at odds with the rest of the electorate. While conservative Republicans strongly disapprove of her nomination, Sotomayor earns at least plurality support from moderate Republicans, independents and Democrats. If Republicans give in to the right-wing activists calling for a bare-knuckled fight against Sotomayor, they run the risk of alienating not only Hispanics and women (about 65 percent of whom approve of the nomination), but the entire electorate outside of their base as well.

This analysis is based on a national survey of 1,013 2008 voters (850 reached via landline, 163 reached via cell), including 890 likely 2010 voters, conducted May 28 through June 1, 2009. Margin of error 3.1 percent.