Democrats Looking Good As Midterm Elections Get Closer

With just 72 days to go until Election Day, the chances that the Democrats will take control of at least one chamber of Congress are looking quite good.

A new series of Generic Congressional Ballot polls continues to provide good news for Democrats as we head into Labor Day weekend and the unofficial start of the General Election campaign season.

The newest poll comes from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, which gives Democrats an eight-point lead over Republicans with just over two months to go before Election Day:

The earlier NBC/WSJ poll — conducted Aug. 18 through Aug. 22 — showed Democrats with an 8-point lead in congressional preference, with 50 percent of voters preferring a Democratic-controlled Congress and with 42 percent wanting Republicans in charge.

Last month, Democrats were ahead by 6 points on this question, 49 percent to 43 percent.

Voters were split on what concerns them more — Republicans not providing a check and balance on Trump if they control Congress (46 percent who say this), or Democrats going too far in obstructing the president if they’re in charge (45 percent).

They also were divided on what bothers them more — a Democratic candidate who supports House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s policies (47 percent), or a Republican candidate who supports Trump’s policies (45 percent).

And asked their opinions of Democrats winning control of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, 41 percent of voters said that would be a good thing, while 38 percent say it would be a bad thing.

Still, Democrats continue to enjoy an edge in enthusiasm: 63 percent of Democratic voters express a high level of interest in the upcoming elections — registering either a “9” or “10” on a 10-point scale — compared with 52 percent of GOP voters who do the same.

What’s more, 56 percent of Democratic voters believe November’s elections are more important to them than past congressional elections, versus just 38 percent of Republicans who think that.

“Democrats are going to win [House] seats in 2018,” says Democratic pollster Fred Yang of Hart Research Associates. “The question is: How many will that be?”

“The reason why the Democrats still have the upper hand is the enthusiasm issue,” Yang adds.

The NBC/WSJ survey conducted mostly before the Cohen-Manafort news also finds Republicans with a 14-point advantage in which party better deals with the economy — their biggest lead on this question in the poll’s history.

Forty-three percent of voters say the GOP better handles the economy, while 29 percent pick the Democrats.

Republicans also hold the edge on trade (R+8), taxes (R+5), guns (R+5) and changing how Washington works (R+4).

Democrats, meanwhile, have the advantages on the environment (D+38), health care (D+18), ethics in government (D+14), looking out for the middle class (D+12) and immigration (D+4).

On the heels of the NBC/WSJ poll is a poll from Harris and Harvard University that also gives Democrats an eight-point lead:

Democrats lead Republicans 45-37 percent on the generic congressional ballot ahead of the midterm elections in November, according to the latest Harvard CAPS/Harris poll released exclusively to The Hill.

The numbers were in line with July’s survey, when Democrats were ahead of Republicans by 43-36 percent in terms of which party they would prefer in November.

The findings also showed Democrats had a 47-31 percent advantage among female voters in the generic ballot question.

“Democrats continue to have an edge in the midterms driven by a widening gender gap as the Democrats have gained considerably with women voters,” said Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll co-director Mark Penn.

The survey also showed the number of undecided voters as November approaches had ticked down to 13 percent in August from 18 percent in February.

The 2018 midterms are shaping up to be a pivotal election as Democrats aim to flip the 23 seats they need to retake the House, though they face tougher odds in taking over the Senate.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris poll showed 59 percent of respondents were “absolutely certain” they would vote in the midterm elections, while 18 percent were “very certain.” Another 14 percent said it was possible that they would cast their ballot in November.

These numbers are largely consistent with other polls that have been conducted over the same period of time, suggesting that we’re seeing voters coalesce around the idea that they are ready to hand control of at least one chamber of Congress over to Democrats after two years of one-party control of both the Executive and Legislative Branches of government. The newest Economist/YouGov poll, for example, shows Democrats at 44% and Republicans at 38%, giving Democrats a six-point advantage. The Fox News poll, meanwhile, has 49% of respondents saying they would vote for a Democrats and 38% saying they would vote for a Republican, giving Democrats an eleven-point advantage. The Reuters/Ipsos poll puts Democrats at 41% and Republicans at 37%, giving Democrats a four-point advantage. Finally, the Monmouth poll shows Democrats getting 48% to 43% for Republicans, giving Democrats a five-point advantage.

Looking at the polling averages, all of this means that trends appear to be moving in the Democrat’s direction. The RealClearPolitics poll average, for example, puts the Democrats at 47.6% and Republicans at 40.6%, giving Democrats a 6.8 point advantage. The Pollster average for the Generic Ballot, meanwhile, puts Democrats at 45.1% and Republicans at 38.9%, giving Democrats a 6.2 point advantage. FiveThirtyEight’s average, meanwhile, which is somewhat weighted to account for poll reliability, puts Democrats at 48.1% and Democrats at 39.8%, giving Democrats an 8.3 point advantage. Additionally, introducing a new statistic we’ll be tracking from now until Election Day, the FiveThirtyEight forecast gives Democrats a 73.2% of winning control of the House while Republicans are given a 26.8% chance of retaining control. All of this suggests that the news for Democrats is continuing to trend in a positive direction, as can be seen in the RealClearPolitics poll chart:

As things stand, Democrats are down by 23 seats in the House of Representatives, meaning they need to pick up at least 24 seats in order to win control of the House. While this seems like a steep number given the fact that gerrymandering and the lack of true battleground districts in recent years has seemed to cement Republicans into control after winning it in the 2010 elections, these numbers are not insurmountable especially given the fact that the latest forecast from the Cook Political Report suggests Democrats could pick up between 25 and 35 seats. If that happens, of course, then Democrats will have a slim majority in the House and Republicans will have a significant political headache since this would seem to guarantee that, at the very least, Democrats would use their majority to launch investigations into the Trump Administration not unlike those that Republicans launched during the Obama years. It seems to me, though, that the more likely outcome is that if the Democrats are going to pick up seats in the House it is likely that it’s going to be something well above the forecast 25-35 seats, perhaps a significantly higher number.

While I’ve cautioned against reading too much into the polls for the better part of the year, we’re now at the point where this is arguably no longer the case. As I noted above, we’re now just 72 days until Election Day, schools across the country are starting to open, and early voting will be starting in many states as early as mid to late September. While it’s still possible that things could change, and that factors in individual races could have an impact beyond individual districts, we’re getting to the point where dismissing the poll numbers is unwise for those of us who are trying to figure out which direction the nation will head after November. It’s always been likely that Democrats are likely to pick up seats in the House of Representatives, of course, but at this point, I would argue that there is, at least, a better than 50% chance that they will gain control of that chamber of Congress at least. The only question is how big that majority might end up being.

It’s always possible, of course, that this polling could end up being wrong. We saw in 2016 that while the national polls ended up being fairly accurate, the same was not true of many state-level polls, especially those in the upper Midwest where President Trump was able to pull off narrow wins that gave him his narrow Electoral College victory. The same could end up being true of the Generic Ballot poll, which doesn’t necessarily reflect what is happening at the individual district level. Additionally, this poll has historically not been very helpful in predicting how the Senate vote will turn out, and it’s still the case that the Republicans still have a numerical advantage that could permit them to maintain control of that chamber. That, however, is something we won’t know until we get closer to Election Day. Based on the numbers we have, though, it is looking like a very good November for Democrats.

FILED UNDER: 2018 Election, Congress, Environment, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Kathy says:

    For once, i wish the polls were wrong and underestimating the vote democrats will get in November.

    That said, as we saw in 2016, elections can turn on a single event (i.e. Comey’s letter). That’s not as likely when it’s a bunch of races rather than just one, but if more revelations about criminal activity by Trump, or more likely by Trump associates (accomplices) surfaces, and Trump keeps bumbling along, it just might happen.

    I envision many disillusioned Republicans outside the Trumpian base simply not bothering to vote.

  2. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    While I understand the risks involved, this could provide an opportunity for Nancy Pelosi to graciously step down from the leadership position she would be likely to resume as Speaker of the House in order to foster a new generation of Democratic Leadership for both the House and the nation at large. At 78 years old, she must realize by now that she’s not going to live forever and that someone should be ready to assume the mantle of leadership at the necessary interval.

    Of course, because she’s a Silent, that’s probably not going to happen. I can’t speak for past generations, but Silents and Boomers have shown a tendency to cling to leadership and control to the point of giving it up only when it’s pried from our cold dead fingers. Oh well.

  3. MBunge says:

    So…five posts so far today and none of them on the massively important U.S./Mexico trade deal announced Monday morning?

    Yet another post on midterm election polling couldn’t wait until tomorrow?


  4. Tyrell says:

    If more Democrat socialists announce they are running, that could be a problem. And the “no ICE no borders no nations” signs are not helping.

  5. lounsbury says:

    @MBunge: So Yasenevo has new spin orders eh? Like Peace in Our Time super most excellent preliminary North Korea deals.

  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    Massive, was it? Massively important? That’s a joke, right? It’s Seoul all over again: a lot of hype, damn little to show for it. Trump had six points: he abandoned all but one. Did you even look at the terms of the deal, or did you just erupt in spontaneous hosannas for Cult Leader?

  7. An Interested Party says:

    I can’t speak for past generations, but Silents and Boomers have shown a tendency to cling to leadership and control to the point of giving it up only when it’s pried from our cold dead fingers.

    One wonders how Gen Xers and Millennials will react once they are in the same situation…

    @Mbunge: Awwww…you poor thing…does it bother you that Doug isn’t slavishly devoted to your hero? There’s only room around here for one Trump fluffer, and you’re it, buttercup…

  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    You’ll notice how the Bung disappears when we’re dealing with convictions and guilty pleas and Trump shitting on John McCain. He’s a needy little thing, Bung, he came tearing back, all atwitter, practically wetting himself to take some kind of NAFTA victory lap for that slight increase in North American content. He’s so excited at the idea that some Mexicans might lose their jobs.

  9. Jax says:

    @MBunge: Is it signed, sealed, and delivered? No? Just an “announcement”? Then it means nothing. Just like all Trump’s other “great deals”.

  10. Gustopher says:


    That said, as we saw in 2016, elections can turn on a single event (i.e. Comey’s letter). That’s not as likely when it’s a bunch of races rather than just one, but if more revelations about criminal activity by Trump, or more likely by Trump associates (accomplices) surfaces, and Trump keeps bumbling along, it just might happen.

    I expect some kind of October surprise from this administration to try to energize their base. But, given that it is this administration I expect it to be a complete cluster fvck.

    My guess — ending the rigged witch hunt by firing Meuller and everyone involved in the investigation, appointing Steven Miller to some minor position in the Justice Department to review the “evidence” that Mueller had gathered, and then releasing the Miller report echo erasing the President, his family and his campaign.

    Miller will be chosen mostly to make reporting harder, as those who are barely paying attention until now will have problems keeping the names separate. There is some chance that they are looking for a different Robert Mueller somewhere in the Justice Department to play that role.

    Start with the headline Trump wants, and work backwards… “Mueller Probe Clears Trump”

  11. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    You don’t think a preliminary deal that’s part of a larger trade agreement, involving a country not party to the preliminary deal, is massively important? When did you last have your brain washed?

    More seriously, what El Cheeto and his supporters should realize, is that trade deals take time, diplomatic action takes time, sanctions take time, crafting good, solid laws takes time, passing such laws takes time. And in addition to time, all these things also require effort and a great deal of knowledge.

    No one can decide to do something big like the above one day, delegate it to a flunky the second day, and sign an all-encompassing law or treaty on the third day. That’s an old fiction plot device that wasn’t good even when it was new.

    And that’s one reason Dennison has failed to achieve much of consequence. What’s sad, is that it isn’t even the main reason.

  12. Jen says:

    This was the best analysis I saw all day of the “trade deal.” The whole thread.

  13. mattbernius says:


    So…five posts so far today and none of them on the massively important U.S./Mexico trade deal announced Monday morning?

    Yes, it was as massively important as the party celebrating the end of Obamacare that Trump threw with House republicans. And as on point as Trump announcing that he had a done deal with North Korea.

    Put a different way, I’m prepared to bet you $100 to the charity of the winner’s choosing that the deal doesn’t go through as negotiated with Mexico, if at all.

    Hell, you can even pocket the money yourself.

    But lets put that expert political brain to the test and confirm that this is as massive as you say it is.

    You really have given up, haven’t you?

  14. MarkedMan says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Silents and Boomers have shown a tendency to cling to leadership and control to the point of giving it up only when it’s pried from our cold dead fingers.

    Or, ignint, given that Silents and Boomers have reached old(ish) age and X’ers, Millenials, etc haven’t, another way to put this is to say that when people get old and have fought for something for decades, they feel they are the only ones that really understand what’s at stake.

    As somewhere at the very tail end of the Boomers I have sympathy for this. Every year I see more articles by enthusiastic young journalists who have no memory of things that happened just a few decades ago and so think the situation is de novo. Heck, if you read a modern translation of Marcus Aurelius you can see that this goes back millennia, not just decades.

  15. Blue Galangal says:

    @Jax: The best part of this “trade deal” is that hapless, awkward phone call video set to various soundtracks. My current favourite is the Arrested Development version, but the Veep one made me grin. Transformative works, indeed.

  16. Lounsbury says:

    Spot on.
    The extreme American fetish for “analysis” via these Named Generations, endowed with ever changing immutable generational characteristics via the usual journalistic amnisiea, is really quite silly.

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Democrats would use their majority to launch investigations into the Trump Administration not unlike those that Republicans launched during the Obama years.

    Ummmmm…. One small teeny tiny difference. The Democrats would be investigating actual criminal conduct, not conducting smear campaigns over nothing at all.

  18. MarkedMan says:

    Completely unrelated: Back in 2016 there was a general meme that Hillary Clinton was the most corrupt politician ever because she had been paid to attend speaking engagements from private industry. There was a running theme amongst a fair number of posters here that “of course” it was corrupt and that these speaking engagements were merely fronts for a bribe (assuming, of course, that Hillary would someday be back in office). At the time and subsequently I’ve pointed out that this type of engagement is just about signaling importance of the conference and no one expects anything to come of this. Meanwhile it is the bread and butter of ex-politicians and ex-generals of all stripes (essentially, think of anyone in either of these categories and you can probably find them on the circuit). Here is the latest in my ongoing attempts to highlight just how common it is, Advamed’s plenary speaker at MedTech next month is Tony Blair. If anyone seriously thinks Blair has some kind of tat to offer in return for this “bribe” I’d love to hear it.

  19. grumpy realist says:

    OT, but Japan’s Keidanren is getting seriously worried about the U.K.’s Brexit.

    As someone who spent over a decade in Japan working for the Japanese government and Japanese corporations, lemme tell you this is the Japanese equivalent of jumping up and down and screaming.

    (The Brits are total idiots if they think that bluffing is going to solve this. Unfortunately, that’s the only strategy they have in their kit, and that’s what they pull out, over and over again–either bluffing or assuming that the other side is bluffing.)

  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: You’re not seeing the big picture–his last name isn’t CLINTON. If it was, it would be completely different.

  21. grumpy realist says:

    @MBunge: I’d like to point out that:

    a) this hasn’t been passed by Congress
    b) it’s basically I Can’t Believe It’s Not NAFTA all over again….with more problems.
    c) Trump hasn’t gotten the third leg on board (a.k.a. Canada).

    So you’ve been gulled into thinking a nothingburger is a piece of filet mignon steak. Like usual.

    (Tell me–how many times have you lost money to someone promising you Real Free Money if you just sent them a cheque/your bank account routing numbers/typing in your Visa card number? From your commentary here, it’s got to be at least once a week.)