WASHINGTON -- The adage that voters hate Congress but love their own representatives no longer holds true, according to a poll that shows Americans increasingly sour about the country's direction and spoiling for change in Washington.
In the George Washington University Battleground Poll, 73 percent of voters said the nation is on the wrong track, compared with just 19 percent who say it's headed in the right direction, a grim political environment one year out from U.S. House and Senate elections.
The news is worse for Republicans, who lag behind Democrats, 41 percent to 44 percent, in the poll's measure of which party's House candidate would be elected if the balloting were held today.
The poll comes as voters from rural Iowa to urban New York get set to render judgment in a slate of political contests today, including in New Jersey and Virginia where gubernatorial race outcomes could highlight the Republican Party division between pragmatists and ideologues.
Elsewhere, Colorado voters will set a tax rate for marijuana.
New York will elect a successor to Michael Bloomberg after 12 years in office, while Boston's mayoral race pits white collar against blue collar, and Detroit's spotlights the city's bankruptcy -- just three of the many mayoral contests from coast to coast.
The Republican brand is also tattered, with the party facing a much larger gap between its positive and negative ratings than Democrats. In the survey, 65 percent of voters held an unfavorable view of Republicans in Congress, compared with 27 percent rating them positively. Democrats were viewed unfavorably by 53 percent, compared with 41 percent giving them positive marks.
The midterm campaign "really has the potential to be a wave election" benefiting Democrats, Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said in her analysis of the research, released at a breakfast Monday in Washington.
The Oct. 27-31 survey of 1,000 registered likely voters, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, was conducted by her firm, Lake Research, and the Republican public opinion company The Tarrance Group.
"It is the worst political environment we have seen in a long time," said the Alexandria, Virginia-based Tarrance's Ed Goeas at the breakfast, hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. While he said he doesn't expect a wave that sweeps Republicans from their House majority, Mr. Goeas conceded his own party is the worse off of the two.
For the first time in the poll's 20-year history, more voters disapproved of their own representative than approved -- 50 percent compared with 39 percent -- with those respondents in Republican-held territory more dissatisfied. And by a 2-to-1 ratio, they said they wanted a new member of Congress rather than to re-elect the incumbent. That was also particularly true in Republican-controlled U.S. House districts, where 65 percent said so, compared with 50 percent in Democratic-held districts.
"All incumbents need to be wary, but the intensity of the blame in Republican-controlled districts" among voters "is really quite dramatic," Ms. Lake said.
Associated Press contributed.