I have no explanation for this sudden turn towards the left. Hopefully no explanation is needed: It’s just a “blip,” statistical noise, as often happens in polls. But after writing half a dozen posts over the last month or so about the GOP making inroads on the generic ballot, I’m obliged to note that the winds have changed. Quickly!
It feels like it was just days ago that I was noting that the Dems’ generic ballot share had dropped to their lowest of Trump’s presidency. Wait — it was days ago. On Monday RCP’s “poll of polls” had Team Blue at just 43 percent, a mere 3.2 points ahead of the GOP. That’s toss-up territory for control of the House in November. Today the lead is 7.6 percent, with Democrats having zoomed up three full points to 46 percent while Republicans have sunk to 38.4, their ugliest number since March. To quote Hillary Clinton: What happened?
Again, I have no theories. The last jobs report was *kisses fingers*. The public may have experienced some agita over the off-again-on-again nature of North Korean diplomacy but the summit has looked solid for the past week. Is it tariff anxiety, with Americans side-eyeing each other over Trump’s crusade to punish the Great Canadian Menace? Before you shrug it off and call it noise, though, have a peek at the actual numbers at RCP over the past week of polling. This isn’t a case of five or six polls showing the race tight and then one crazy outlier throws everything out of whack by putting the Dems up by 25. There are good numbers for Team Blue across a range of surveys: +6 at YouGov, +7 at TIPP, +7 at Quinnipiac, +10 at NBC, +11 at Reuters(!), and +9 at good ol’ Fox News. Again, just days ago the average Democratic lead in polls was around three points. Something seems to have happened to public opinion. If it is in fact a reaction to tariffs, Trump’s steering the GOP towards an electoral iceberg.
To the extent that there’s any one poll that’s wreaking havoc with the average, it’s Reuters. Their generic ballot surveys have been wildly up and down this year. In late April they had the Dems up 11 points, which is well into “blue wave” territory in the midterms. A few weeks later they had Democrats by six. A few weeks after that they had Democrats by one, with the party collapsing to just 38 percent of the vote. And that’s more or less how it stayed over the next few polls, with the Dems clinging to a lead of one to three points. Suddenly today they’re blowing the roof off again. It’s fair to say, I think, that Reuters is overly “bouncy” and that the truth lies somewhere between D+1 and D+11, but that just points to the new average of 7.6 points being by and large correct. We’ll see next week if this is a real trend or just a data fart.