It takes a while to get to this data in the CBS News report, as the Washington Examiner and Twitchy point out, but it’s real — and perhaps spectacular. One has to read to the ninth paragraph for CBS to get to the point of its latest and last national midterm poll, which takes burying the lede to a new and amusing level. What other data would a national media outlet survey five days before the midterms? The headline reads, “What Americans think of Congress and the President,” which is as generic a headline for a national political poll as one could possibly write. Why not use “We talked to a lot of people about politics and this is what they told us”?
So what did they tell CBS? Let’s go to paragraph nine and pick up the actual news:
Republicans continue to hold a lead in the national Congressional ballot test: 47 percent of likely voters say they will support the Republican candidate in their district, while 40 percent support the Democrat.
About nine in ten Republicans, and a similar percentage of Democrats, say they support their party’s candidate for the House of Representatives. Independents are supporting the Republican candidate.
Thirty-two percent of voters are paying a lot of attention to the campaign, a figure that has steadily risen since September, and is similar to the percentage who said the same four years ago.
Four in ten voters say they are more enthusiastic about voting this year compared to past elections. Forty-seven percent say they are less enthusiastic, up 13 points from the 34 percent who said that in October 2010. Republican voters (48 percent) are more likely than Democratic voters (42 percent) to say they are more enthusiastic.
The 47/40 figure does not include leaners. With leaners, the GOP lead goes to eight points, 50/42. Bear in mind that generic polls tend to skew Democratic, so even a narrow Democrat lead in this poll usually means a decent night for Republicans. Getting to a majority and having an eight-point lead five days before the election signifies a wave election coming.
The movement among independents is interesting, and should be worrisome for Democrats. Republicans lead by 18 points among unaffiliated voters without leaners, 46/28. When leaners are added in, the gap rises to 19 points, 52/33. That suggests that late-breaking voters will go to the GOP, not Democrats. The potential silver lining for Democrats on this point is that independents are less enthusiastic than either Republicans or Democrats about voting in this election; a majority of 53% say they are less enthusiastic than in previous Congressional elections, with 33% saying they are more enthusiastic. That, however, is a problem among Democrats too, whose numbers are underwater on enthusiasm (42/47). Only Republicans are rightside-up on this question (48/40), and it’s possible that the less-enthusiastic independents would normally skew Democratic.
The central figure in this meltdown is Barack Obama, who made sure that this would be a referendum on his presidency by publicly insisting that his policies were on the ballot. Obama gets a 39/51 job approval rating in this poll, and is underwater on every policy area except Ebola (47/41); on foreign policy, a former strong suit, Obama gets 34/54. Voters tend to minimize Obama’s role in their vote though, with an almost-even split between those who see it as a referendum (49%) and those who don’t (47%). Among those who do, the split is 19/30 for/against Obama. Independents split more than 2:1 against Obama on that measure, 11/27, and even 11% of Democrats say their vote will be against Obama. Only independents have a majority rejecting the referendum argument.
The fact that this is the final poll for CBS in this cycle may be meaningful, too. Pollsters like to get that final survey as close to the mark as possible, and weight their samples accordingly. The RV weighting on this poll has a D/R/I of 33/27/40, significantly off from 2010’s turnout model of 35/35/30. Perhaps that’ll be correct, but the internals of this poll suggest something a little different, especially considering the enthusiasm numbers — and that may mean that this poll is underestimating the amplitude of the wave. We’ll see soon enough.