Generic Ballot Showing Signs Of Big Shift Toward Democrats

New polling seems to show a significant shift toward Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections.

As of today there are just nine weeks left until the midterm elections and a new Generic Ballot poll from ABC News and The Washington Post shows the Democrats in increasingly good shape to take control of at least one chamber of Congress, a development that would have significant impact on the remainder of President Trump’s first term in office:

Two months ahead of the midterm elections, Democrats hold a clear advantage over Republicans in congressional vote support, with antipathy toward President Trump fueling Democratic enthusiasm, even among those in the party who stayed home four years ago, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds.

The survey also points to broad unrest and frustration with the political system generally. More than 6 in 10 Americans say Trump and the Republican Party are out of touch with most people in the country. While Democrats fare better, a narrower 51 percent majority also judged them out of touch.

Registered voters say they favor the Democratic candidate over the Republican candidate in their district by 52 percent to 38 percent. That is a marked increase from the four-point edge in an April Post-ABC poll but similar to the 12-point advantage Democrats enjoyed in January.

Because of the overall makeup of congressional districts, analysts have long said that Democrats would need a clear advantage on this “generic ballot” question, and in the national popular vote for the House, if they hope to flip the 23 seats needed to take control. The Post-ABC poll puts Democrats in a stronger position today than some other recent surveys, which showed them with an edge of about eight points on this measure.

Self-identified Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are slightly more likely than Republicans and Republican-leaning independents to say they are absolutely certain to vote, by 80 percent to 74 percent.

Four years ago, when Republicans made gains in the midterm elections, the GOP enjoyed a 10-point advantage on this question in Post-ABC surveys that fall, 71 percent to 61 percent. The latest survey also asked whether people had voted in 2014, and among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who say they did not, 63 percent say they are absolutely certain to vote in November.

The past three midterm elections — 2006, 2010 and 2014 — produced substantial losses for the party that held the White House. In 2006, Republicans lost control of the House, but they regained it four years later. In 2014, they captured control of the Senate. Trump’s victory in 2016 gave them full control of the executive and legislative branches.


Ironically, the GOP’s weak position comes even as 58 percent of Americans say the economy is excellent or good, tying ratings from January as the most positive marks in 17 years. The fact that many Republicans are worried about whether they can hold the House during a time of positive economic assessments underscores how much Trump’s unpopularity has undermined the party’ greatest asset as fall campaigning begins.

The 38 percent minority of voters who rate the economy as “not so good” or “poor” favor Democrats over Republicans at 70 to 20 percent, a 50-point margin. But Republicans hold only a seven-point advantage with the majority of voters who view the economy positively, 49 to 42 percent.

Trump is a key factor in the asymmetry. Nearly half of voters who are upbeat about the economy still disapprove of the president’s job performance. Among this group, Democrats lead Republicans by a lopsided 74-point margin in congressional vote preferences, 83 percent to 9 percent.

When asked whether they would rather have Democrats control Congress “as a check on Trump” or a Republican-controlled Congress “to support Trump’s agenda,” 60 percent of voters say they prefer having Democrats in control. In July 2017, that figure was 52 percent, at a time when Trump’s job ratings were almost identical to today.

Meanwhile, 59 percent of voters say it is extremely or very important for them to support a candidate who shares their opinion of Trump, a figure that has grown seven points since April. Sixty-nine percent of Democrats and 65 percent of Republicans say they are seeking candidates with similar views of the president, suggesting that Trump is a motivator for both his supporters and his opponents.

The gender gap in views of Trump continues to be a key factor looking ahead to the fall campaign, with the Post-ABC poll finding 66 percent of female registered voters disapproving of Trump, including 59 percent who disapprove “strongly.” Among men, 52 percent disapprove, 45 percent strongly.

Vote preferences show a similar divide, with men basically split in support for Democratic or Republican House candidates, but women favoring Democrats by 58 percent to 33 percent, a 25-point margin. Women are also nine points more likely than men to say it’s important for congressional candidates to share their views on Trump.

The ABC/Post poll joins several other new polls that have been released since I last looked at the Generic Congressional Ballot less than a week ago, and they all seem to be showing a clear shift in favor of Democrats. The latest Emerson College poll, for example, puts Democrats at 52% and Republicans at 39%, giving Democrats a 13 point advantage. In the most recent Economist/YouGov poll, meanwhile, Democrats stand at 45% and Republicans stand at 39%, giving Democrats a 6 point advantage in the poll. In the latest poll from Investors Business Daily and TIPP, Democrats stand at 50% while Republicans stand at 39%, giving Democrats an 11 point advantage. Democrats (50%) also have an 11 point advantage over Republicans (39%) in the latest USA Today/Suffolk poll.  Finally, the latest Reuters/IPSOS poll gives Democrats (47%) a 13 point advantage over Republicans (34%).

All of this means that there has been a decided momentum shift in favor of Democrats over the course of the past several weeks that is also evident in the polling averages.

The RealClearPolitics poll average, for example, puts the Democrats at 48.5% and Republicans at 39.0%, giving Democrats a 9.5 point advantage. The Pollster average for the Generic Ballot, meanwhile, puts Democrats at 45.5% and Republicans at 38.0%, giving Democrats a 6.2 point advantage. FiveThirtyEight’s average, meanwhile, which is somewhat weighted to account for poll reliability, puts Democrats at 49.3% and Democrats at 38.8%, giving Democrats an 10.5 point advantage. Additionally, introducing a new statistic we’ll be tracking from now until Election Day, the FiveThirtyEight forecast gives Democrats a 77.6% of winning control of the House while Republicans are given a 22.4% 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. Based on the numbers we are seeing right now, a normal projection would suggest that Democrats could pick up as many as 40 seats in November. Additionally, the most recent forecast from the Cook Political Report suggests Democrats could pick up between 25 and 35 seats, and that is is a projection that was made before the latest polls were made. If the Cook Report projection is correct then it means that Democrats would end up with a slim majority in the House. If the polling that has taken place in the wake of that report is accurate, then the Democratic majority would be even more substantial, as would the Republican Party’s headaches in 2019 and 2020 since it would mean 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.  Given these polls, and assuming that the current trend continues, my current projection would be that Democrats would be likely to gain between 35 and 45 seats in the House. Obviously, this number is subject to change depending on how the campaign goes.

As I noted above, we are now just 64 days away from Election Day. Summer is largely over for most Americans as 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 possible that there could be something that could happen between now and Election Day that could cause the factors motivating the electorate to change, and that factors in individual races could have an impact beyond those districts, we are now at the point where it’s time to pay attention to the poll numbers is upon us. 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, 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. CSK says:

    I’ve just been reading all the WaPo, CNN, and other stories about Bob Woodward’s new book about the Trump administration, Fear. It’s worse than we can imagine.

    It will have absolutely no effect whatsoever on the Trumpkins, who will just dig in deeper in their defense of him, and not every voter will read the book, but I can’t imagine it not having an effect on the midterms.

  2. CSK says:

    OT, but Jon Kyl will replace McCain.

  3. MarkedMan says:

    Not a prediction, just speculation: as we come down to the finish line and some of the Republican internal polling shows that candidate X is going to lose, will they turn on Trump out of desperation? I could see it happening in a half dozen races, with the incumbent thinking that Trump’s inevitable foaming-at-the-mouth reaction will net them more votes from the Indies than it will cost them with the R base, or at least that it’s worth a shot. Should be an interesting October…

  4. Jay L Gischer says:

    @CSK: Well, the stuff I’ve seen is pretty bracing, and it’s from a very solid source.

    But still, I’d have to say your imagination isn’t that good. As Han Solo used to say, “I can imagine quite a lot”.

  5. Pete S says:

    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.

    I know the point you are trying to make, but I think Democratic investigations of this President would be COMPLETELY unlike those the Republicans ran during the Obama years. They would be based on actual events.

  6. An Interested Party says:

    They would be based on actual events.

    And considering how dirty this administration seems to be, they would probably produce actual results…