(CNN) - Only weeks before Election Day, a new poll shows victory likely hinges on the separation of views between registered voters and those likely to actually travel to the polls, especially on topics like Congress, candidates, and the economy.
The ABC/Washington Post poll finds among all registered voters, more prefer Democratic congressional candidates. But the GOP benefits from an active base, as 77 percent of Republicans state they are absolutely certain to vote on Election Day, while only 61 percent of Democrats say the same, a telling spread of sixteen points. This is a bigger GOP lead than in 1994, the last time Republicans wrested control of Congress from Democrats.
Likely voters now break for Republicans 49-43 percent in their district. However, the gap between the two parties is closing as 53 percent of likely voters said they'd vote Republican last month and 40 percent stated they'd vote Democratic. Last month the gap was thirteen points wide, now it has shrunk to six.
Independent likely voters favor GOP candidates 53 to 33 percent according to the poll. But Republicans cannot bank all hopes on their 20-point advantage over Democrats among independent likely voters either, as this is the fickle group that is harder to lure to the polls on Election Day.
The ABC/Washington post poll depicts the economy as a lightning rod for candidate choice this fall. Three-quarters of likely voters who say the economy is improving favor Democrats. Seventy percent of those who say the economy is getting worse favor Republican candidates, as do 52 percent of those who believe it has stayed the same. But more likely voters say the economy is improving this month by 7 points (31 percent versus 24 percent in September) and fewer likely voters say the economy is getting worse; showing that overall voters' view of the economy is improving.
The poll also highlights voter sentiments about the Tea Party and its possible impact on mid-term elections. Though July's survey results showed that 30 percent of voters were more apt to support a Tea Party-affiliated candidate, today that number has dropped to 18 percent. In fact, now 28 percent of registered voters are more likely to oppose a Tea Party candidate for Congress. Of those who support them, Tea Party candidates find loyal voters, as 92 percent say they're certain to vote next month.
When it comes to loyalty the ABC/Washington post poll reflects that voter views are conflicting this fall. Fifty-one percent of registered voters state they approve of their own congressman's performance, but only 31 percent say they're inclined to re-elect their representative. Instead, 55 percent are inclined to take a look at someone else, a number that holds true for likely voters as well. This is lower than the amount who considered voting for another candidate in 1994, the last time the GOP took control of Congress.
At that time, 34 percent of voters stated they'd vote for an incumbent, while 58 percent they'd look around for a replacement. If they're looking for a candidate that matches their ideology, less than half of registered voters say they will be satisfied. Overall, fewer than half of voters think Democrats are either too liberal or too conservative, as well as Tea Party candidates (48 percent) while more than half call the GOP either too liberal or too conservative (53 percent).
President Obama's performance is also up for question in the ABC/Washington Post survey. Fifty percent of Americans approve of his job performance while 47 percent disapprove. When it comes to health care reform voters are virtually split with 47 percent supporting the new measure and 48 percent opposing it.
Those who dislike healthcare reform dislike it passionately: 77 percent would like to see it canceled in Congress or through the courts. Registered voters also believe that a GOP-led Congress would take the country in a new direction rather than return to President Bush's policies by 49 to 42 percent.
Candidates may still have a chance to influence voters according to the survey, as 71 percent are closely following the election, according to the survey. The ABC News/Washington Poll was conducted by telephone September 30-October 3, 2010 among a random national sample of 1,002 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents. Results for the full sample have a 3.5-point margin of error.