WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has improved his standing among voters, and Democrats finally have started to energize their base, but it might be too little and too late to change the course of Tuesday's elections, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.
The national survey found that Obama's weeks of campaigning across the country have paid off with higher approval ratings for him, particularly among independents and the young and in the Northeast.
At the same time, Democratic voters now are more enthusiastic than they were at the beginning of October.
Still, Obama's overall approval rating remains split — 48 percent of registered voters approve of the way he's doing his job, while 43 percent disapprove. Among likely voters, the numbers are a shade worse, with 47 percent approving and 48 percent disapproving.
And while Democrats are more excited, they still lag well behind Republicans. Weeks before, Republicans enjoyed a whopping 23-point advantage — 51-28 — among those voters who say they're "very enthusiastic" about voting. Now, that Republican edge is 49-35 — narrower, but still a 14-point advantage for the Republicans.
"Although there's been some late movement toward the Democrats, we're still looking at likelihood of a new political reality after Tuesday," said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College, which conducted the poll.
"The president's approval rating has improved. The enthusiasm gap has narrowed. That is some reflection that things are getting a little bit more competitive. For the most part, that's where the good news for the Democrats ends."
While voters are signaling their anxiety — 54 percent say the country's headed in the wrong direction — that doesn't mean they want a new Republican Congress to reject Obama completely.
By a margin of 72-22, registered voters want Republicans to work with Obama to get things done rather than stand firm if it means gridlock. Among likely voters, the margin is 68-27.
Favoring bipartisan cooperation were 75 percent of independents. Notably, 46 percent of Republicans said they want a Republican Congress to work with Obama.
Contrary any talk of a clear mandate for the Republican agenda on Tuesday, likely voters split almost evenly, with 37 percent saying Obama has a better agenda, 31 percent saying the Republicans have a better agenda, and 27 percent saying neither has the better plan.
Long considered a drag on his party's prospects, Obama's campaigning across the country, including big rallies on college campuses, has helped his standing.
Overall, 48 percent of registered voters approve of the way he's doing his job, still below half but up 5 points from a McClatchy-Marist poll in early October.
At the same time, 43 percent disapproved, down 7 points from earlier in the month.
- Among independents, Obama gained 13 points, to 48 percent approving
Obama and the Democrats also energized their base.
The ranks of Democratic voters most excited about voting rose 7 points, to 35 percent.
The total percentage of liberals who are the most enthusiastic rose by 8 points, also to 35 percent.
The percentage of Republicans among the most enthusiastic eased slightly, from 51 percent to 49 percent. The total of conservatives among the most energized went essentially unchanged, from 53 percent to 52 percent.
Overall, registered voters favor an unnamed Democrat for Congress over a Republican by a margin of 47-41. However, those likely to vote are evenly divided 46-46.
- Likely voters want U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq by a margin of 62-30
This survey of 917 U.S. residents was conducted Oct. 22-25. Residents 18 and older were interviewed by telephone. Telephone numbers were selected based upon a list of telephone exchanges from throughout the nation. The exchanges were selected to ensure that each region was represented in proportion to its population. To increase coverage, this land-line sample was supplemented by respondents reached through random dialing of cell phone numbers. The two samples were then combined.
Results are statistically significant within plus or minus 3.3 percentage points. There are 807 registered voters. The results for this subset are statistically significant within plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. There are 461 likely voters and 350 most likely to vote. The results for these subsets are statistically significant within plus or minus 5.0 and plus or minus 5.5 percentage points, respectively. The error margin increases for cross-tabulations.
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