If you’re looking for blue waves, what more appropriate location to find them than on the shores of sunny California? That is, if they exist at all — and a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California suggests that voters won’t exactly be catching a wave and sitting on top of the world on Election Day. Unsurprisingly, Democrats show more enthusiasm for voting statewide than Republicans and independents in a state dominated by the former:
Whether or not Democrats take control of the US Congress is a major plotline in the 2018 election. Half of likely voters (53%) say they are extremely (25%) or very enthusiastic (28%) about voting in congressional races this year—similar to our findings in May (46%). According to an October CNN poll, registered voters nationwide (33% extremely, 22% very) are somewhat more likely than registered voters in our survey (21% extremely, 24% very) to be enthusiastic. Among California likely voters, Democrats (67%) are more likely than Republicans (45%) and independents (42%) to be at least very enthusiastic about voting in races for Congress this year.
If the 2018 election for the US House of Representatives were held today, a majority of likely voters (55%) would vote for or lean toward the Democratic candidate, while 37 percent would vote for or lean toward the Republican candidate. The Democratic candidate was preferred by similar margins in our September survey (54% to 37%) and our May survey (52% to 38%). Findings among registered voters (57% Democratic candidate, 35% Republican candidate) are similar to nationwide findings in an October ABC News/ Washington Post poll (53% Democratic candidate, 42% Republican candidate). Most partisan likely voters would support their own party, while independents are more divided.
Those are the aggregate numbers, and aren’t terribly surprising. Neither are PPIC’s results in statewide contests. Dianne Feinstein leads fellow Democrat Kevin DeLeon in the Senate race by 16 points, 43/27, almost identical to the RCP aggregate average for the race. Gavin Newsom has an 11-point lead over Republican John Cox, 49/38, just a bit shy of RCP’s 15-point lead in the average.
When it comes to the generic-ballot results, however, location matters. Where Democrats dominate, their lead is understandably massive — 30 points, in fact. But in the battleground districts where Democrats expect to pick up seats, that lead evaporates, turning into a five point lead for Republicans, 49/44:
Democratic candidates are preferred by a 30 point margin (60% to 30%) in Democratic-held districts, while Republican candidates are preferred by a 15 point margin (55% to 40%) in Republican-held districts. In the 11 California districts deemed competitive by the Cook Political Report, likely voters are divided (49% Republican candidate, 44% Democratic candidate). (Nine of these seats are currently held by Republicans; for more information see page 22). The Democratic candidate is preferred by large margins in Los Angeles (62% to 30%) and the San Francisco Bay Area (60% to 28%), and by narrower margins in Orange/San Diego (53% to 42%). The Republican candidate is preferred by narrower margins in the Inland Empire (50% to 45%); those in the Central Valley (47% Democratic candidate, 46% Republican candidate) are divided.
That’s not the only contraindication to the wave, either. When voters are asked in these competitive House districts whether they want cooperation or confrontation with Donald Trump, they choose cooperation by 22 points, 59/37. Even when asked across the entire state, voters almost evenly split on the question, 45/48 in favor of confrontation. A majority of independents across the state favor cooperation, 51/41. That cuts directly across the Democrats’ message in his election cycle — that the House needs to check the Trump agenda, both through legislation and through investigations.
The GOP lead in battleground districts follows similar national polling from the Washington Post/ABC and NBC/WSJ series. It suggests that the overall generic ballot may be even more representative than usual of Democratic strongholds, while battleground districts might be tilting back to the GOP. Granted, they’d have to tilt significantly over the next dozen days for Republicans to hold the House majority, but it’s not out of the question, either. At the very least, these polls indicate that the “wave” may be more of a big ripple when it finally hits on Election Day.