A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is out this morning, and its results add hard numbers to the picture of the GOP race sketched out in the column I posted earlier. The divergence of viewpoints between voters in the GOP primary and those of Americans in general is significant.
In a two-man primary race, Newt Gingrich crushes Mitt Romney among Republican voters by a 23-point margin. That’s because nearly two-thirds of GOP voters view Romney as being either liberal or moderate. Only 29 percent view him as somewhat or very conservative. By contrast, 57 percent view Gingrich as conservative.
But once you leave RepublicanWorld and enter the mainstream, things change. If the election were held today, President Obama would crush Gingrich by 11 points and probably more. That’s because swing voters — defined in the poll as those who say they are open to voting to candidates of both parties — dislike Gingrich by a 3-1 margin. Just 16 percent view him favorably, compared to 48 percent who view him unfavorably. Overall, half of voters say flat-out that they will not vote for him.
Among other interesting nuggets from the poll:
– Seventy-five percent of voters grade this Congress as below average (33 percent) or one of the worse (42 percent). That’s a much higher number than in the tumultuous election years of 2010 (60 percent below average or worse), 2006 (56 percent) and 1994 (44 percent). Throw in the fact that 2012 is a redistricting year in which some incumbents will face new voters, and the potential for a housecleaning is real.
– Which way will that change go? The approval/disapproval rating for Republicans in Congress is 26/69, compared to 31/62 for Democrats, but it’s hard to predict how that plays out in individual districts. Seventeen percent believe the problem with Congress is the refusal of Republicans to cooperate with Obama. Six percent say the problem is Obama’s refusal to cooperate with Republicans.
– The big difference emerges on the question of which party is most likely to look out for the middle class. Forty-four percent say Democrats, compared to just 24 percent for Republicans. Numbers like that are driving Obama’s Osawatomie speech and the payroll-tax dispute.
– Obama’s biggest two accomplishments are said to be the killing of Osama bin Laden and completing the withdrawal from Iraq; his two biggest failings are viewed as the economy and failing to control spending.
– Jay Bookman