Rasmussen: More Bad News For GOP genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

When it rains, it pours

As they say, when it rains, it pours. In a new Rasmussen Reports poll, the Mark Foley scandal is found to have potentially devastating consequences for the Republican Party. I've previously argued that the scandal might actually increase the turnout of the GOP evangelical base but this new polling suggests that even if that were to happen, it may not be enough to overcome the overwhelmingly negative sentiments of Democrats and the increasingly negative sentiment of those voters who identify as independents.

Sixty-one percent (61%) of American adults believe that Republican leaders have been "protecting [Mark] Foley for several years." A Rasmussen Reports national opinion survey conducted Tuesday and Wednesday nights shows that only 21% believe that the leadership “just learn[ed] about Foley’s problems last week."

The data supports speculation that this issue could have a devastating impact on Republican prospects at the polls this fall. Even among Republicans, 31% believe the GOP leadership has been protecting Foley. Just under half (46%) of the GOP faithful believe that Congressional leaders just learned about the problem.

Perhaps more significant politically, 69% of those not affiliated with either major party believe that leadership has been protecting Foley. Only 9% of unaffiliated [believe] the GOP leaders just learned of the problem last week.

Older Americans, those most likely to vote, are least likely to believe that Republican leaders just learned about this issue.

In response to a generic ballot question, 47% of Americans say they will vote for a Democrat this November and 34% will vote for a Republican. That 13-point advantage is up five from an eight-point edge held by Democrats in August.

The impact on elderly voters is significant and should that age group conclude that the GOP can no longer be trusted to act with integrity, it may well be the water behind a wave of Democratic gains in the House and the Senate. The other key number is the five percent jump in support for Democrats in the generic polling question; increasing their lead from 8% to 13%. The Republican's had recently narrowed that gap, leading a number of strategists to speculate that the anticipated Democratic gains could fail to materialize. This latest number appears to be the first reversal of what seemed to be favorable GOP trending.

The most important insight to take from this recent scandal and the related influence it seems to be having on polling is just how quickly an unexpected or unforeseen event can shift the potential outcome of the November election. Given that the election is still more than a month away, the tide could turn a number of times.

Daniel DiRito | October 5, 2006 | 12:07 PM
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