The polls are getting better for Republicans
For months, Democrats have defied midterm gravity. Now, it looks like they may be coming back to earth.
Party of the President almost always does poorly in midterm electionsand at the start of the year it looked like that trend would continue into 2022. But after the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Democrats saw a surge in the polls.
The general congressional ballot is a poll question that asks people across the country which party they plan to vote for in Congress (without naming specific candidates). And as recently as Oct. 13, Democrats led FiveThirtyEight’s by 1.1 percentage points. Congressional Ballot Poll Average. Now, however, Republicans lead these polls by an average of 0.5 points, suggesting the national mood has swung back toward the GOP.
Individual surveys mostly confirm this movement. I compared the total ballot polls to a FiveThirtyEight survey rating B+ or higher on the same surveys taken in October through September. On average, they showed a shift of 1.2 points towards the Republicans. This included a 4-point shift by two of the top pollsters in the business, Monmouth University and: Siena College / The New York Times Upshot.
Generic ballot polls are moving toward the GOP
September and October general polls for Congress by pollsters with at least a B+ rating from FiveThirtyEight pollsters.
|Questioner||Pop.||September survey||in the October issue||Change|
|Hart Research/Public Opinion Strategies/NBC News||RV:||EVEN||D+1||D+1|
|Siena/New York Times Upshot||LV:||D+1||R+3||R+4|
This change also affected FiveThirtyEight’s medium-term forecasts. The Democrats’ Chances retaining control of the Senate From 66 out of 100 on October 13, it has dropped to 55 out of 100 today. And the Republicans left 69 out of 100 chances walking around the house October 13th 80 in 100 chance today.
Republicans’ chances in the House have risen so high that projections expect the final margin for Republicans to be even better than general-ballot polls currently suggest. The forecast suggests that Republicans will win the popular vote in the House of Representatives by an average of 4.0 points.
How does a prediction go from 0.5 points to 4.0 points? First of all, Democrats are not running in 23 House districts this year, so they won’t get votes there. By comparison, there are only 14 counties where Republicans are not fielding a candidate. However, all the uncontested constituencies were already safe for the other side, so this should not affect the seat split.
In addition, our total ballot survey average includes surveys of adults, registered voters, and likely voters. But if you’re interested in who’s going to win the election, you’re most interested in polls of likely voters. And it’s likely that polls are similar better for Republicans than the other two species. For example, if we calculated the overall ballot average using only polls of likely voters, the Republicans would be ahead by 1.1 points instead of 0.5. And here are the four most recent general election polls that released numbers among both registered voters and likely voters:
Polls probably lean more Republican
The four most recent polls of general congressional voting released numbers among both registered and likely voters
|Questioner||Dates:||RV Inquiry||LV Inquiry||Take turns|
|Hart Research/Public Opinion Strategies/NBC News||October 14-18||D+1||R+1||R+2|
|YouGov/The Economist||October 16-18||D+1||R+1||R+2|
|Siena/New York Times Upshot||October 9-12||R+1||R+3||R+2|
Finally, general ballot polls historically tend to get worse for the president’s party as the election approaches. The graph below shows how the FiveThirtyEight total ballot average has changed over the last 90 days of the 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018 midterm elections. As you can see, the president’s party lost ground in the last month of every year, but in 2018
Of course, we’re only two weeks away from Election Day, and millions of Americans have already done so voted early or absent, but there is still time for the polls to get better for the Republicans. On average, in 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2018, the total ballot margin for the president’s party worsened by 1.2 points over the last 15 days.
But that doesn’t mean the Dobbs decision didn’t make a difference. Take another look at that graph. The 2022 line (along with the 2014 line) is at the very top of the chart. In other words, Democrats may lose ground from now on, but they’re starting from a higher-than-usual baseline. And without the boost Democrats got over the summer, we might have been predicting a so-called “red wave,” a Republican landslide of 6-10 points. While the possibility of another voting error in favor of the Republicans means the outcome is still on the table, 2022 is more likely to be a more modest Republican victory. It could have been a lot worse for the Democrats.
Aaron Bykoff participated in the research.