As voters head to the polls Tuesday for a crucial set of primary elections, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds antipathy toward their elected officials rising and anti-incumbent sentiment at an all-time high.
The national survey shows that 29 percent of Americans now say they are inclined to support their House representative in November, even lower than in 1994, when voters swept the Democrats out of power in the that chamber after 40 years in the majority.
The poll also finds growing disapproval of the "tea party" movement, with half the population now expressing an unfavorable impression of the loosely aligned protest campaign that has shaken up politics this year.
And at a time when Republicans anticipate significant gains in House and Senate elections, there is also fresh evidence of the challenges facing the GOP. Six in 10 poll respondents say they have a negative view of the policies put forward by the Republican minority in Congress, and about a third say they trust Republicans over Democrats to handle the nation's main problems ...
Elected officials nationwide are feeling their constituents' dissatisfaction. In the new Post-ABC poll, 69 percent of all Americans say they are either dissatisfied or angry with the government, and 60 percent say they are inclined to look for other candidates in November, the most ever in a Post-ABC poll.
Democrats are likely to suffer disproportionately from the tough climate: They are in the majority in both houses of Congress and are defending many more districts than Republicans. The public sees little improvement in the nation's direction or the state of the economy. Six in 10 say the country is on the wrong track and 88 percent rate the economy as not good or poor, with just 30 percent saying it is improving.
Yet Democrats maintain at least one advantage: They hold a double-digit edge over the GOP as the party that people trust to handle the country's main problems.
Another big element that may mute the threat to Democrats is that the GOP has not gained significant traction. Most Americans -- including nearly a third of self-identified Republicans -- say they are dissatisfied with or angry at the policies of congressional Republicans. These numbers have changed little since last November, despite the GOP's focus on offering a more concrete agenda rather than simply Democratic proposals.
Obama's overall approval ratings have remained fairly steady.
More than half of those surveyed, 52 percent, say they approve of the way he is handling his job, and for the first time since last fall, half approve of how he is dealing with the economy.
There are new vulnerabilities in public perceptions of the president, however, that may provide fresh openings for Republicans to reframe the debate. Nearly half, 48 percent, now say that Obama does not understand the problems of people like them, the highest of his presidency. For the first time, a slim majority of independents say Obama is out of touch with their problems. Most Americans continue to view the president as a strong leader, but the proportion has declined.