Kavanaugh effect? Quinnipiac shows Dem generic ballot lead cut in half in a month

Does this represent a natural momentum swing as voters get more engaged ahead of the midterms, or evidence of something more? Quinnipiac has produced some of the largest gaps in the aggregated polling on the generic congressional ballot this cycle. Their previous poll, taken at the beginning of September, showed Republicans trailing by a disastrous 14 points with two months to go before the midterms.

Today, it’s seven points — among registered voters:

Five weeks before the Midterm Elections, 49 percent of American voters back the Democratic candidate in their local race for the U.S. House of Representatives and 42 percent support the Republican candidate, according to a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today.

This compares to the results of a September 12 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University National Poll, showing Democrats with a 52 – 38 percent lead. …

“The numbers suggest the big blue wave may have lost some of its momentum as House races tighten. President Donald Trump’s approval remains deeply in the red,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Bear in mind that the Q-poll’s margin of error is ±3.7%. The movement for either party falls right around the MoE — three points down for Democrats, four points up for Republicans. It’s possible that this is statistical noise, but it doesn’t seem likely. Also worth noting: this is the lowest level polled for Democrats in the Quinnipiac series since at least the first week of July, after which they have remained at 50% or above until now. It also ties the highest level achieved by Republicans in the series from mid-August.

This certainly indicates some movement off the norm, at least in the Q-poll. And it may not actually indicate a turnout model change, either, as Quinnipiac still isn’t applying a likely-voter model to its polling. This change has occurred in the larger population of registered voters, suggesting that a likely-voter model might have shown more momentum in the GOP’s direction.

Does this represent a Kavanaugh effect? The polling for this took place between Thursday and Sunday, meaning that three of the four days came after the televised hearings in which Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford testified, a hearing obsessively covered by the national news media. One might have expected Democrats to get a bump coming out of that hearing, especially given the tenor of the coverage it received. Instead, the momentum shifted in the other direction even among the wider population. It’s tough to directly correlate that to Kavanaugh, since Quinnipiac didn’t bother to ask any questions on the issue, but it’s tough to assume that it had no impact either.

A D+7 result puts Quinnipiac firmly in the range of other major pollsters — now, anyway:

Harvard-Harris (via John Nolte) has Democrats up nine after the hearing, also among RVs, but it did ask some key Kavanaugh-related questions. Respondents want their senators to vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation as it stands at the moment by a plurality of 44/37. However, it also asks whether Kavanaugh should be confirmed if his accusers can’t provide “any evidence to corroborate the claims and Kavanaugh says these incidents did not happen.” That changes the results dramatically; under those conditions, a double-digit majority wants Kavanaugh confirmed, 57/43. If the FBI doesn’t find anything specific about Ford’s allegations, that number goes up to 60/40, including 55% of women.

That’s not the only danger for Democrats, either. Seventy-five percent of respondents say that Dianne Feinstein should have immediately turned the letter over to the committee rather than sit on it. Sixty-nine percent of respondents called the hearing “a national disgrace,” with 55% concluding that Democrats have been “completely partisan” in their handling of Kavanaugh. (Thirty percent of Democrats agree with that, by the way.) And finally, the Harvard-Harris poll shows 45% of respondents say the Kavanaugh hearing has made them more likely to vote in the midterms, although that splits out pretty evenly across party lines.

The disgust over the conduct of these hearings is widespread. If it’s sustained, we can expect to see more erosion in the generic ballot over the next couple of weeks, and that might spell trouble for Democrats — especially in the Senate.

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