While voter preferences for the midterm elections remain closely divided, Republicans now enjoy advantages among typically loyal voting blocs that wavered in 2006 and are doing better with key swing groups. Americans who intend to vote GOP this fall are also far more engaged in the campaign this year.
Across party lines, the public sees earmarking by their congressional candidates as more of an asset than a liability. Americans are divided on the value of Obama in November, while both Palin's support and Tea Party affiliation are seen by more as negative than positive. On energy, public backs a wide range of goals and policies.
In broad terms, voters view the Democratic Party's ideology as the opposite of the Republican Party's: 58% say the Democratic Party is either very liberal or liberal while 56% say the GOP is either very conservative or conservative.
The "Millennial Generation" of young voters played a big role in the resurgence of the Democratic Party in the 2006 and 2008 elections, but their attachment to the Democratic Party weakened markedly over the course of 2009.
The mood of America is glum. Most are dissatisfied with the state of the nation, economic conditions, personal finances and an increasing number say the war in Afghanistan is not going well. Still, a majority continues to approve of Obama's job as president.
In recent years, Republican viewers have migrated increasingly to Fox News but Democrats comprise a larger share of the Fox News audience than Republicans do of CNN's audience.
Centrism has emerged as a dominant factor in public opinion as the Obama administration begins. Republicans and Democrats are even more divided than in the past, while the growing political middle is steadfastly mixed in its beliefs about government, the free market and other values that underlie views on contemporary issues and policies. Both political parties have lost adherents since the election and an increasing number of Americans identify as independents.
The Republican Party has continued to lose adherents in 2009. In combined surveys since the start of the year, fewer than a quarter (23%) of Americans identify as Republicans. In total, the GOP has lost roughly a quarter of its base over the past five years. But these losses have not translated into substantial Democratic gains.
The current Democratic favorability advantage is the largest measured in nearly two decades. Even among white evangelical Protestants, loyal supporters of the Republican Party, opinions about the two parties are about even.
Still, ideological labels don’t always predict policy opinions; e.g.,about half of self-described conservatives say that all or some of the Bush tax cuts should be repealed while many liberals support off-shore drilling.