And believe it or not, that’s not the worst news for Joe Biden and Democrats from today’s Emerson national poll, although it’s bad enough. Not only have Republicans taken a lead on the generic congressional ballot, Emerson’s survey shows a narrow majority for the GOP on a measure that normally only requires them to be within a few points to have a successful cycle.
No, the real problem for Democrats and Biden is enthusiasm — which portends an even wider gap at the ballot box:
The majority (73%) of registered voters report being very motivated to vote in the 2022 midterm elections. Republican voters express higher levels of motivation to vote than Democrats: 79% say they are very motivated to vote compared to 65% of Democratic voters. Younger voters are less motivated to vote: 57% of voters between the ages 18-29 say they are very motivated to vote, compared to 84% of voters over 50 who say they are very motivated to vote.
Voters were asked which congressional candidate on the ballot they would be most likely to vote for in the midterms, the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate. Half of voters (50%) say they plan to vote for the Republican candidate, while 41% say they plan to vote for the Democratic candidate; 9% are undecided. This is similar to the November national poll, which had Republican candidates nationwide leading Democratic candidates 49% to 42%.
That’s a fourteen-point gap on enthusiasm overall for the midterms in favor of Republicans. The least enthusiastic age group is the demo that Democrats need to turn out big in any election, although they’re usually disappointed on that score. Emerson’s crosstabs are a mess, so good luck on determining other breakdowns, but needless to say, this suggests a lot of problems in other demos for Democrats.
In fact, one key demographic of note has gotten a lot of attention lately, and Emerson’s data on Joe Biden’s job approval numbers bears out that concern. Hispanic voters have become hardly disapproving of Biden, and without them Democrats are looking at an electoral nightmare not just in 2022 but also in 2024:
Hispanic voters are most critical of Biden’s job performance: only 35% approve while 56% disapprove. White voters are more favorable of Biden’s job performance: 41% approve and 51% disapprove. Black voters are the most favorable of Biden’s job performance: 66% approve while 28% disapprove.
I guess all that “Latinx” jargon hasn’t impressed those voters, eh? Biden’s still getting a 42/50 on overall job approval, but one has to wonder how well that reflects the current status quo. Biden’s at 41% with white voters, 35% with Hispanics, so who’s lifting him up? It’s not independents:
Within the Democratic party, 73% approve of the job Biden is doing as president while 19% disapprove. Among Republicans, the majority (71%) disapprove while 22% approve. Independents also generally disapprove of Biden’s job, at 27% approve and 63% disapprove.
If Biden’s at 27% with independents and 35% with Hispanics, then his 42% overall approval looks pretty strange. Emerson’s crosstabs on its sample are clearer, and show a D/R/I of 37.4/35.9/26.7, which seems a bit of an undersample for independents. And that might mean that Emerson’s generic ballot might understate the hole in which Democrats find themselves this year.
And Emerson’s result isn’t that much of an outlier. The current RCP gap on the generic ballot, including this poll, puts the difference at GOP +4.5:
Note that Emerson’s Democratic support rating lines up almost exactly with the RCP average on Biden’s job approval; GOP support generally trails Biden’s disapproval. Does that make Emerson an outlier? Maybe, but other pollsters have given Republicans a majority in the generic ballot, most recently Rasmussen and Monmouth.
But also, the trend in all polls has been to lean to a GOP lead. In the fall, Democrats led almost all of these polls, even if it was narrow, and the instances of Republican outright leads was rare. That has flipped over gradually to the point where Democrats have led in only 10 of 27 aggregated polls since the first of the year, and only two of eight in February. Emerson’s amplitude might might might be a bit of an outlier, but it sure looks more like a portent of Democratic collapse.
Update: On the Democrats’ woes with Hispanics, let’s not forget that the warning from Democrat analysts William Galston and Elaine Kamarck highlighted that demographic specifically. This is part, they argued, of Democrats’ dangerous illusions of an emerging progressive majority. The reality is that Hispanics are exiting, not entering, the Democratic coalition:
In their analysis of voters of color, Galston and Kamarck give special attention to Hispanics, a diverse community all its own and one that has shown signs of drifting away from the Democratic Party. Hispanic support for Democratic nominees dropped from 71 percent in 2012 to 66 percent in 2016 to 59 percent in 2020.
“Democrats,” they write, “must consider the possibility that Hispanics will turn out to be the Italians of the 21st century — family oriented, religious, patriotic, striving to succeed in their adopted country and supportive of public policies that expand economic opportunity without dictating results.” They note that ultimately, “Italians became Republicans. Democrats must rethink their approach if they hope to retain majority support among Hispanics.”
They also use the case of Hispanic voters to make a larger point. “The phrase ‘people of color’ assembles highly diverse groups under a single banner. The belief that they will march together depends on assumptions that are questionable at best.”