I have wondered whether the low standing of Congress in the polls reflected disapproval with how the Democrats are running things, or general dissatisfaction with Congress as an institution. Personally, I think it’s both.

Perhaps that is how the country sees things too. This is a possible explanation of the findings in a recent USA Today/Gallup poll that shows the public having a more positive attitude toward Ds than Rs. The poll was conducted November 2-4.

Favorable 54%
Unfavorable 37%
No Opinion 10%

Favorable 40%
Unfavorable 50%
No Opinion 11%

The Republicans’ favorable rating reached its high point early in Bush’s second term (February 05) at 56%-39%. By July of that year, it had dropped below 50% (46-45), and it has not recovered since. The Democrats topped 60% in July 00 (61-33), and in 36 subsequent polls, they have fallen below 50% only eight times. Nevertheless, the Democrats were like a football team that dominates the stats but not the scoreboard: They were unable to translate their presumed advantage into electoral victory until November 06.

Gallup also aggregated the results of its 2007 polls from April forward to determine how Democrats, Independents, and Republicans viewed the two parties:

How Democrats Are Viewed by:
Republicans: 16% favorable, 80% unfavorable
Independents: 47% favorable, 40% unfavorable
Democrats: 91% favorable 6% unfavorable

How Republicans Are Viewed by:
Republicans: 86% favorable, 11% unfavorable
Independents: 33% favorable, 55% unfavorable
Democrats: 9% favorable, 87% unfavorable

The crucial inference here is that independents are not sold on the Democrats, but they have turned against the Republicans.