Midterms Looking Good For Democrats

New Generic Congressional Ballot polls have good news for Democrats.

As of today, there are 83 days left until the midterm elections. In many states, the start of early voting is only a few weeks away. And, most importantly, school children are starting to return to school meaning that summer is ending and voters are starting to turn their attention to the upcoming elections and races that have largely been out of the minds of those of us not obsessed with politics on a daily basis. Because of that, it’s getting to be that time when the polls actually start to mean something and we start getting a better idea of what we can expect this November. Based on recent polling, as well as the results of some recent elections, things are looking very good for Democrats in the first real electoral test since Donald Trump became President. While there is still plenty of time for things to change, the numbers right now are all pointing to what seems likely to be a good year for Democrats and a setback for Republicans.

First up, there’s a new Generic Congressional Ballot poll from CNN showing Democrats with a lead in the double digits:

Democrats now lead Republicans by 52% to 41% in a nationwide generic Congressional ballot according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS and released Tuesday. The blue lead has increased slightly from eight percentage points in June of this year to an 11 percentage point difference in the most recent poll.

Despite Democrats’ advantage on that measure, a plurality (48%) in the same poll believe Republicans will maintain control of Congress after the election, compared with 40% who believe Democrats will gain control.

Among those who favor the Democratic candidate in their district, 64% say they think Democrats will ultimately win control of Congress, while among those backing Republican candidates, 83% think the GOP will maintain control.

Compared to previous elections, 68% of registered voters say they’re more enthusiastic to vote in this election than in the past. Registered Democrats and Republicans report being more excited to vote at similar levels, with 70% and 68% saying so, respectively.

However, Democrats have taken a much higher leap in enthusiasm vs. 2016 than Republicans. When CNN last asked the question, in September 2016, only 38% of Democrats said they were “more enthusiastic,” while 48% of Republicans said the same. Registered Democrats jumped 32-points since 2016 and Republicans moved 20-points.

Health care tops the list of important issues voters will consider this fall with 81% saying it’s extremely or very important to their vote for Congress, followed very closely by the economy (80%).

Immigration is on the rise as a critical issue — from 38% in May to 44% now. However, the issue’s overall importance hasn’t increased substantially.

Gun policy remains a deeply important issue for almost three quarters of Americans (73% call it extremely or very important to their vote), and corruption — an issue newly in the spotlight following Rep. Chris Collins’ arrest on insider trading charges — outpaces trade policy and taxes in importance to voters (74% call corruption extremely or very important vs. 64% on trade policy and 71% on taxes).

A new Quinnipiac poll, meanwhile shows a similar double-digit lead for Democrats:

Democrats hold a 12-point lead over Republicans on a generic House ballot a little more than three months before the November midterm elections, according to a new poll.

Democratic candidates were favored over Republican candidates 51 percent to 39 percent in the Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

The poll found that while Republicans and Democrats largely backed their own parties, 50 percent of independent voters would vote for Democrats, while 33 percent of independents backed GOP candidates.”Although the Mid-term elections are more than three months away, Democrats, who are hoping to retake control of the U.S. House of Representatives, will be cheered by their double- digit lead on the so-called generic ballot,” assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll Peter Brown said in a release.

These two polls are a decided shift from other recent Generic Ballot polls which have shown the Democrats still leading, albeit only in the single digits. As a result, the poll averages are not yet reflecting a major shift toward Democrats but there are signs it could be happening. The RealClearPolitics poll average, for example, shows voters favoring Democrats (46.9%) leading Republicans (40.1%) by +6.8 points, which is slightly higher than where it has been for the past several weeks. Similarly, the Pollster average, meanwhile, puts Democrats at 43.8% and Republicans at 39.7%, giving Democrats a far slimmer +4.1 point average. Finally, FiveThirtyEight’s average shows Democrats (47.9%) leading Republicans (40.1%) with a +7.8 point advantage. What seems most significant is the fact that there’s definitely an uptick for Democrats in the polls, as this chart from RealClearPolitics shows:

In addition to these polls, a new Morning Consult poll shows some interesting numbers regarding voter enthusiasm:

A trio of new polls show that Democrats are cutting into the GOP’s longstanding turnout advantage in midterm elections, another encouraging sign for the minority party’s hopes of winning the House in November.

According to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday, roughly two-thirds of voters, 66 percent, said they were “very motivated” to vote in this year’s elections — up significantly from 55 percent in May.

Three-fourths of GOP voters, 75 percent, said they are “very motivated” to vote, as did 72 percent of Democrats; the difference between the two is within the poll’s margin of error. Fewer independents, 53 percent, said they were very motivated to vote.

In past midterms, other surveys have showed Republican voters were far more motivated than Democrats were to show up at the polls.

“With public interest in the midterms increasing as autumn approaches, our polling shows Democrats and Republicans are about evenly matched in voter enthusiasm,” said Tyler Sinclair, managing director of Morning Consult.

If high levels of voter excitement continue to November, it could lead to greater turnout at the ballot box. Only 41.9 percent of eligible voters turned out in the 2014 midterms, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey — less than 45.5 percent in 2010 and 47.8 percent in 2006.

A CNN poll, conducted by SSRS and released Wednesday, also shows historically high levels of enthusiasm for this year’s midterms. More than two-thirds of voters, 68 percent, said they are “more enthusiastic about voting than usual” — far greater than even in the last presidential race. In early September 2016, only 42 percent of voters said they were more enthusiastic than usual.

The CNN poll shows both parties tied in enthusiasm: 70 percent of Democratic voters and 68 percent of Republican voters said they were more enthusiastic than usual.

A third poll, from Quinnipiac University, gives Democrats an edge in enthusiasm: 65 percent of voters said they were “extremely motivated” to vote in 2018 — including 73 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of independents.

Democrats maintain a slight edge in the generic ballot on the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, 42 percent to 38 percent, with 1-in-5 voters undecided. That is down marginally from a 6-point lead last week, and consistent with the party’s long-term advantage, which has fluctuated 3 points to 8 points all summer long. (The CNN and Quinnipiac polls show larger leads for Democrats: 11 points and 9 points, respectively.)

In a similar vein, Ed Morrissey at Hot Air looked at the numbers from Tuesday’s primary in Minnesota and found numbers that could spell trouble for Republicans:

In the gubernatorial election, Republicans received 319,276 combined votes, with Johnson getting 167,922 (99/8% of precincts reporting). Democrats got almost twice as many — 580,962 votes. Johnson got far fewer votes than Tim Walz got (242.162) in his plurality win over Erin Murphy for the Democratic nomination. In fact, Johnson got fewer votes than Murphy did for her second-place finish, 186,367, and only outscored third-place finisher Lori Swanson by 25,000 votes.

The same dynamic appeared in the primaries for both Senate seats, thanks to the one-party-only rule. Democrats had incumbents running in both primaries without much competition. Amy Klobuchar got almost 96% of the vote in her win, while appointee Tina Smith got 76% in hers. Both Democratic primaries still attracted 579K and 567K, respectively. In contrast, the more competitive GOP primary for the challenge to Smith didn’t quite draw 300K votes, which Karin Housley won 62/36 over Bob Anderson.

This wasn’t a case where one party didn’t have a competitive race. Both parties had hard-fought gubernatorial primaries, and in the Senate races all of the real action was on the GOP side. And yet Democrat turnout beat Republican efforts by an almost 2appear on a

:1 margin. That’s a huge red flag, or as someone quipped on Twitter last night, a huge blue flag. A blue wave may or may notnational basis in November, but one showed up here yesterday. It makes it seem highly unlikely that the state Republican Party will break its 12-year losing streak in statewide races three months from now.

These numbers from Minnesota are not dissimilar from others than we have seen from other races across the country. Breaking a norm that we have seen in midterm elections for decades now, it seems quite clear that Democrats are highly motivated and enthusiastic about getting out to vote while Republicans appear to be becoming dispirited and resigned to the fact that the Republican Party is going to lose control of one or both chambers of Congress in the fall. We saw similar enthusiasm gaps before the 2006, 2010, and 2014 elections, all of which were “wave” elections of one kind or another. If this trend holds up heading into November, then things could end up going very well for Democrats.

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 inside of 90 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 what

Even though we’re now less than three months away from Election Day, I’d submit that it’s still a bit too early to start making projections based on these numbers. Most Americans, after all, aren’t really paying much attention to the elections and won’t begin to until we hit the end of summer at Labor Day and the campaign, as well as early voting in many states, begins to heat up. Notwithstanding that caveat, though, it seems true that things continue to look good for the Democrats, and that there seems to be at least somewhat of a consensus growing that they will not only gain seats in the House of Representatives, which would be in line with the historic norm, but that it is increasingly likely that they’ll gain something north of the 23 seats they need to win in order take back control of the House. The only question appears to be how far north they’ll end up and how big their majority will be. Things could change in the next 104 days, of course, but as things stand the odds are looking fairly good for Democrats in the House.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2018, Congress, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    We still have to count the Russian votes. But with that aside, yes, it looks good. Were it not for Republican voter-suppression efforts I’d be even more optimistic.

    If we take the House I predict they will vote to impeach after Mueller’s report comes out. It’ll be damned hard to get a conviction out of the Senate, but Trump will be finished. He’ll stagger to the end of his term and leave office a broken man with his ’empire’ in ruins and his ‘brand’ toxic. From there it’s off to the competition with Buchanan and Andrew Johnson for worst president ever.

    See? Optimism!

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  2. Kylopod says:

    Curiously, you don’t mention that 538 just came out with their House forecast, giving the Dems a 75.4% chance of gaining control.

    https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2018-midterm-election-forecast/house/

    Keep in mind that throughout 2016 the site was one of the most cautious of all the forecasting organizations, always giving Trump a significant chance of winning when other forecasters were deeming that possibility very unlikely. Now they’re the first of the polling analysts to give the Dems a significantly higher than 50% shot at winning the House this year.

    It’s not inevitable. All the usual caveats apply. A 24.6% chance for Republicans is still significant–better than the chances 538 gave Trump at certain parts of the year.

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  3. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Optimism for me has Trump in an orange jumpsuit. But, I’ll take “broken man” if he stays on Twitter and feeds us daily expressions of his sads.

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  4. Yank says:

    It’ll be damned hard to get a conviction out of the Senate, but Trump will be finished.

    It depends how bad the report is. I think people are underestimating how opportunistic congressional Republicans are.

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  5. gVOR08 says:

    This is good news. A split congress is infinitely preferable to an all R Congress. It would be good to see Devin Nunes especially, but all the Committee Chairs out before they do a lot more damage. It would be good to see the Mueller report go to people who don’t want to bury it. But I’m having trouble being optimistic beyond this year.

    We have an R President who is blatantly unqualified and unfit for the office. We have an all R Congress that has managed to do nothing except pass a tax cut that’s managed to be unpopular, and the mask is largely off their racism. And the best we can hope for is maybe a dozen seat majority in the House. To hold that majority the Ds will need to show they can do something, show they deserve continued voter enthusiasm. And everything they try to do will be killed by McConnell. We’ll have two more years of same-old-same-old ineffective government, then the Rs will once again run against do-nothing government, supported by massive dark money from the Billionaire Boys Club.

    Even if Trump’s impeached, barring a smoking gun not now evident, we get a year or so of Mike Dense. Unless he’s even dumber than I think he is, he’ll keep the seat warm and try to look dignified for a year. Then the Rs will all claim it was all Trump’s fault and take credit for getting rid of him.

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  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Just a reminder; this is what everyone was saying about Clinton in August of 2016.

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  7. James Pearce says:

    (Looks like you might have the nub of an old draft in there, Doug.)

    I was pretty impressed with the turn-out numbers myself, but I’m still bracing for disappointment though.

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  8. Jen says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Yeah, I’m still wary. That said, I cannot wait to vote, and that seems to be bearing out in turnout numbers elsewhere too.

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  9. SenyorDave says:

    @Michael Reynolds: If we take the House I predict they will vote to impeach after Mueller’s report comes out. It’ll be damned hard to get a conviction out of the Senate, but Trump will be finished. He’ll stagger to the end of his term and leave office a broken man with his ’empire’ in ruins and his ‘brand’ toxic. From there it’s off to the competition with Buchanan and Andrew Johnson for worst president ever.
    I’ll take that, but the sweetest thing would be to see him prosecuted. At least with Nixon nobody claimed that he he was a major criminal prior to being president. Its been pretty well established that Trump was laundering money in his casino. My guess is he did much, much worse stuff, and hopefully Mueller will peel back all the layers of the Trump onion. I’d love to see that POS in orange jumpsuit.

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  10. Ratufa says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Interestingly, some Trump loyalists are theorizing that being impeached will actually help Trump:

    https://www.politico.com/story/2018/08/16/trump-impeachment-reelection-midterms-778968

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  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Ratufa:
    Cultists believe a lot of nonsense. I’m sure there’s some die-hard Koreshi still waiting for the messiah.

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  12. Anonne says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Cultists believe a lot of nonsense. I’m sure there’s some die-hard Koreshi still waiting for the messiah.

    They’re starting to come up with some really wild shiz, like Hillary set the Russians up for Trump to take **that meeting** at Trump Tower.

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  13. grumpy realist says:

    @Anonne: The typical conspirator: nothing is ever my fault.

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  14. Gustopher says:

    I’m cautiously optimistic. The polls don’t seem as ahistorically wacky as they did with the 2016 Presidential election, but the gerrymandered House is a hard win.

    I’m also half expecting a case where there are millions more votes for Democrats than Republicans, and the House stays Republican by four seats, and we will again be hearing “America is a republic not a democracy”, and Professor Taylor will be here complaining about the inaccuracy of the use of “democracy” and “republic” in that statement.

    If that happens, I would not be surprised if we saw a wave of left wing terrorism. When people feel they have no power, they find a way to do something that makes them feel powerful. Having our democracy fail to be democratic again might do that.

    I’d rather have the Republicans win the vote handily than have that happen.

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  15. JohnMcC says:

    Whether actually impeached in the House or not, and whether convicted in the Senate or not, it is pretty difficult to see Mr Trump fading into the sunset or becoming a ‘broken man’. In my really bad dreams he collects his 27% and barnstorms the nation rousing the faithful. As our friend Gustopher mentions above, a significant section of the electorate that is convinced their just cause has been corruptly defeated — ‘stabbed in the back’ is a historical term — the results are sometimes pretty ugly.

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  16. Barry says:

    @Ratufa: “Interestingly, some Trump loyalists are theorizing that being impeached will actually help Trump:”

    Some guy on the internet said that this was his personal indicator of a wave election, when the partisans of the losing side try to downplay a loss ahead of time.

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  17. Kylopod says:

    @Barry:

    Some guy on the internet said that this was his personal indicator of a wave election, when the partisans of the losing side try to downplay a loss ahead of time.

    I’d be a little cautious there. I used to think one of the big signs of a losing presidential campaign is when they start talking about “Dewey Defeats Truman.” But Gingrich began talking about that in 2016, and look what happened.

    The bottom line is that Republicans look headed for a loss, and they know it–but nothing’s inevitable.

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  18. the Q says:

    It seems you don’t need a pollster to tell you which way the voters go….since FDR, the average midterm change has been 30 seats in the House for the party out of power and 3 in the Senate. Only twice in modern history has the incumbent Presidential party GAINED seats. Popular POTUS’s like Ike, Reagan, Clinton, JFK…all LOST seats in their MTs, so its hardly a stretch to predict the Dems victory.

    If the Dems don’t get to at least 30, the wingnuts will spin it as a victory

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  19. Todd says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Clinton was an unusually flawed and damaged candidate. In contrast, most reporting about Democrat’s recruiting says that they are fielding quality candidates in all competitive (and even many likely non-competitive) districts.

    538 gives plenty of caveats in the recent articles about their models … and as such, it’s not unimaginable that the political winds shift just enough for the GOP to hold the House. But if you asked me to put down money right now, I think Dems winning 50+ seats is much more likely than the GOP retaining the House and even slightly more likely than Dems winning just a bare majority.

    The real question in November is what happens in the Senate … and there I am much less optimistic.

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  20. Moosebreath says:

    @Todd:

    “538 gives plenty of caveats in the recent articles about their models … and as such, it’s not unimaginable that the political winds shift just enough for the GOP to hold the House. But if you asked me to put down money right now, I think Dems winning 50+ seats is much more likely than the GOP retaining the House and even slightly more likely than Dems winning just a bare majority.”

    I hope you are right, but the paranoid part of me thinks the Republicans have something up their sleeve. Digby’s conclusion:

    “The government is legitimately worried that if they talk about penetration of he actual voting systems that nobody will ever accept he outcome of an election again.

    But what if it’s true and the party that is benefiting from the penetration refuses to do anything about it?”

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  21. Todd says:

    @Moosebreath: If the outcome in November turns out to be significantly different than the polling averages, I expect you will see rioting in the streets.

    A much more likely scenario though, is the Democrats really do pick up a lot of seats in a true wave election. Then Republicans, led by Trump decide enmass that the Russians really are interfering with our elections, and they must be helping the Democrats.

    Watch.

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  22. wr says:

    @the Q: “If the Dems don’t get to at least 30, the wingnuts will spin it as a victory”

    If the Dems get to 25, it won’t matter how the wingnuts “spin it.” The Democrats will have subpoena power. Spin that.

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  23. wr says:

    @Kylopod: ” But Gingrich began talking about that in 2016, and look what happened.”

    Even when something is a one in a million chance, it’s going to happen sometimes. Doesn’t mean we have to panic that it’s a trend…

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  24. Kylopod says:

    @wr:

    Even when something is a one in a million chance, it’s going to happen sometimes. Doesn’t mean we have to panic that it’s a trend…

    The point is that people in 2016 (including me) were constantly looking for reasons to dismiss Trump’s chances of winning, and most of these “proofs” were either nonsense or at least far from definitive. His victory depended on a careful confluence of events that were not predictable. But it was never “one in a million.” The race was always competitive, and he would not have won if more people had gotten off their butts instead of sitting around telling each other how his victory was absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable.

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