Republican momentum, or pollster accountability? I know which way I’d bet.
As predicted, and as predictable as a Biden gaffe, generic-ballot pollsters that clung to a “Democrat rebound” narrative all summer long are now reporting GOP momentum in the final iterations of their polling.
For instance, let’s start with CNN, where Republicans now have a 51/47 advantage — and a stunning seven-point shift in the gap in a single month. Why? Because Democrat enthusiasm has cratered, along with the economy:
An enthusiastic Republican base and persistent concerns about the state of the economy place the GOP in a strong position with about a week to go in the race for control of the US House of Representatives, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS.
The new survey out Wednesday shows that Democratic enthusiasm about voting is significantly lower than it was in 2018, when the Democratic Party took control of the House. Republican voters in the new poll express greater engagement with this year’s midterm election than Democrats across multiple questions gauging likelihood of vote.
Overall, 27% of registered voters say they are extremely enthusiastic about voting this year, down from 37% just ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, and the decline in enthusiasm comes almost entirely among Democrats. Four years ago, 44% of Democratic registered voters said they were extremely enthusiastic about voting; now, just 24% say the same. Among Republicans, the number has dipped only narrowly, from 43% to 38%.
A month earlier, CNN had it at 47/50 in favor of Democrats. Among likely voters, even.
How about the NPR/Marist poll? That series tried to gaslight voters into thinking Joe Biden got a State of the Union rebound in March, and has consistently shown a Democrat advantage in its generic-ballot polling. No longer; the race has shifted six points in the gap in that series, too:
- The Republicans running for Congress (49%) now edge their Democratic rivals (46%) among those who say they definitely plan to vote in this month’s midterm elections. In October, the Democrats (48%) edged the Republicans (45%) by three points. Among registered voters, the Democratic (46%) and Republican (46%) congressional candidates are tied. The Democrats (46%) were +2 points over the Republicans (44%) last month.
- For the first time in a decade, a majority of Americans (59%) think it is better for the country if the president and Congress are from the same party. 38% think it is advantageous for these two branches to be from different parties. In December 2016, Americans had the opposite view (29% same party to 63% different parties).
- 82% of registered voters nationally say they definitely plan to vote this year, and 70% say they are very interested in this year’s midterm elections. While interest among Democrats is steady (68% now compared with 67% last month), interest has grown among Republicans. 84% of the GOP report a great deal of interest, up from 72%.
The only pollsters still in the RCP aggregation field showing Democrats ahead are Economist/YouGov, which has always been an outlier, and Politico, which lamely reports results from its partner Morning Consult in only RV terms:
We do our own daily tracking among likely voters with a higher frequency and larger n-size. (3-day moving avg. of an ~8k n-size with an MOE of +/- 1). This midterm tracker is updated weekly: https://t.co/HUsoygqpYz
— Morning Consult (@MorningConsult) November 2, 2022
[Please see update below.]
If you want to see this polling phenomenon laid out in a graphic, here’s the last six months of RCP’s aggregate tracking. Note the correlation between the “Democratic comeback” media narratives post-Dobbs and the narrowed track, and then the sudden separation as final iterations required more accuracy:
If the “Democrat rebound” was real, what precipitated it — Dobbs and the end of Roe? That can’t be it, or the narrowing would have taken place in May when the decision was leaked, or at least in late June rather than early August. Then, we’d have to ask what precipitated the end of the comeback. Inflation reports? Those have been remarkably consistent all year, and especially over the summer. Joe Biden’s incompetence? Come on, man. Gas prices? The media’s been all over that the past week as an excuse for Democrats’ midterm woes, but even when gas prices dipped in June and July, they still remained 47% above their price when Biden first took office.
The only thing that ended this “Democrat rebound” was accountability for predictive polling after Election Day. This has been the race all along, and it strongly suggests a red wave of significant proportion — at least a 2014-ish wave, and maybe bigger than that.
Update: I got a very polite and friendly note from Morning Consult explaining the issue. Morning Consult does produce likely voter results, which can be seen in their daily midterm tracker. At the moment, it shows a 46/46 tie, and has even more bad news for Democrats:
Democrats Lose Generic Ballot Lead: Congressional Democrats have lost their advantage over congressional Republicans on the generic ballot, with likely voters now evenly split — 46% to 46% — on the question. The latest survey marks a decline over the past month from Democrats’ high point (49%), and a boost for the GOP from its 44% low.
Republicans Increase Enthusiasm Edge: Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they are “extremely” or “very” enthusiastic about voting in the midterm elections, 64% to 61%, following a dip among Democrats in recent weeks.
Biden’s Approval Hits Low Among Likely Voters: Biden’s job approval rating has reached a low point with likely voters, falling from a 47% high in mid-September to 42% in the latest survey. Meanwhile, 56% disapprove of his job performance.
I’m not buying a five-point change in the race in a month, but daily tracking polls with 3-day averages have more volatility, too. That result is a bit more understandable. The main question is why this shows up on RCP as RV? That is apparently how RCP picks up Politico’s reported results, not Morning Consult’s. I’ve removed snarky comments about Morning Consult and thank them for the clarification.