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Are Democrats in Worse Shape Than They Were in 2010?

The Pew Research Center released a survey Monday showing Republicans leading the generic House ballot among registered voters by 4 percentage points, 47 percent to 43 percent. The poll is more optimistic for the GOP than any other recent national survey. Over the past month, a RealClearPolitics style average (i.e. each pollster is counted only once in the average) of all registered voter polls gives Republicans a 0.2 point advantage.

But even a virtual tie for Republicans on the generic ballot — probably the best measure of the national political environment — puts them in better shape than they were in at this time in 2010, a banner year for the GOP. A RealClearPolitics-style average of nonpartisan live telephone polls from this time four years ago gave Democrats a one percentage-point advantage. Include polls from YouGov (which interviews respondents via the Web and was among the most accurate pollsters in 2010), and Democrats had a 1.7-point edge.

Perhaps what’s most interesting is that Republicans don’t seem to be fading, even as President Obama’s approval rating has ticked up by a point or two. Last month, the GOP was down by 0.8 percentage points in an average of registered voter polls for the generic ballot. In other words, Republicans gained a point over the past month at the same time Obama was gaining.

Democrats were almost certainly never going to win the House. But as I’ve discussed, the generic ballot is a good way to judge the national environment. Incumbent Democratic senators in Southern states such as Arkansas and Louisiana are having to run away from the national environment. The generic ballot is suggesting that they may need to do that even more so than in 2010.

Harry Enten was a senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight.