For two months Democrats snatched a Republican lead in the battle for House control, helped by motivated abortion-rights voters and fleeting glimmers of optimism about the economy. But that momentum has stalled, at least for now, and the Republican House lead has stabilized on the Democrat’s 211 in 224 seats today. Republicans’ lead was cut short in the last two model runs of September and August.
What’s behind it? Today’s views about the economy have worsened amid continued inflation, a volatile stock market and a complete reversal from August – people reporting gas prices in their neighborhoods are rising. And voters are feeling it personally: More now say their own financial situation is worse, and more concerned about saving and paying for things than in the past month.
Republicans still win voters who prioritize the economy but haven’t been able to increase their share of them. Meanwhile, Democrats have not been able to increase the number of people who prioritize abortion – an issue that is on their side.
So, it’s becoming clear that much of the closing week will be about motivating voting, and in order to get everyone’s attention in these elections, not many eligible voters will participate. To this end, we will model some of the scenarios that emerge from our data.
why are things stable
We wanted to understand how voters place blame or reward on the economy. For Democrats, it takes a serious look at how voters argue with the results they see before them.
By double digits, Democrats are still losing out to independent candidates who report that their personal financial situation is poor, and for whom high prices have made their lives worse or more difficult.
Democratic policies are not the main reason people look for inflation – more blame on international forces and supply issues – but the party is also not blameless.
Two-thirds of voters report that gas prices are rising. It’s not helping Democrats: Those who report growth are more apt to blame Democratic policies for it.
But as happens so much today, even empirical experience such as the price of gas is told through a political prism. Republicans are even more likely to say they have moved up than Democrats. This is true in every region of the country.
More voters feel that the policies of Democrats, including independents, have been harmful rather than helpful to the economy. And overall, two-thirds of registered voters think the Biden administration can do more to tackle inflation.
All this despite the fact that the job market is viewed as good, and fewer are concerned about their job status than their ability to save money or about rising prices.
Overall, less than half, 45% of voters say Biden’s policies bear “a great responsibility” for the current economy, but another quarter say “some.”
For context, US presidents are always bound by at least some economic circumstances, but they are not always deterministic. For example, in competing congressional districts before the 2018 midterm, then-President Trump had a similar number of voters saying his policies were responsible for the economy. The economy was widely seen as good then, but Republicans lost the House by a wide margin anyway.
As Republicans continue to win over economy-focused voters, the question arises: Why haven’t they achieved even more?
They outperform Democrats in terms of policies that will help the economy – but are also seen as helping the wealthy, in particular, compared to the middle class.
What about abortion?
At the moment, it appears that abortion has already been factored in to the same extent.
The issue brought Democrats into contention in the face of all economic news. It is still important, but its importance has not expanded significantly since then.
We’ve said for a while that much of this contest is about what the election can define. The Democratic campaign wants it to be about abortion, and for so many voters it already is, but in the past month, Democrats haven’t increased the number of voters who consider abortion so important.
The percentage of those who call abortion very important is actually a little less now than last month.
Democrats have managed to win over even more voters who already prioritize the issue, suggesting that part of their message is working. It’s just that they haven’t expanded the size of that group.
Whether or not that changes – or may happen in the face of so much economic uncertainty – will probably be an important, determining factor in this competition.
Polarization and favoritism in sport
And this, in turn, tells us about ideas associated with polarization and partisanship.
Majority voters view both parties as “extreme”, with more than eight out of 10 in each party viewing the opposing party as such. Some people on both sides call the other side “fair”.
Only one in 10 voters who choose a party in the House race say they would consider another party as well – and those voters are unlikely to vote at all. This is in line with the low amount of crossover voting seen in recent elections.
And voters on each side say they won’t be disappointed if the other side wins, but half say they will be angry. Chances of defeat in 2018 election campaignMore anger from Democrats than Republicans, a foreshadowing of that year’s blue wave. Now the parties are at it too, and the vast majority of voters on both sides say voting in this year’s midterm matters as much or more than the presidential year.
Perhaps reflecting the blame associated with the party in power, and widening partisan divisions, Republicans who voted Republican this year placed more importance on opposing Democratic policies than on supporting people.
President Biden’s approval rating among potential voters remains the same as last month. It ticked off a wider set of registered voters – driven by voters under the age of 45, who are far less likely than older voters to say they are voting in these midterms.
Scenario: What if…
to better characterize the range of possibilities that may lie ahead, given the inherent uncertaintyBefore the election, we use our data to explore political scenarios, describing how things might unfold from here. One area of exploration – and a cause for uncertainty – is voting, or exactly who will vote this year.
…more young voters appear?
One of the many patterns we’ve seen is that young people are significantly less likely to come in 2018. Voters under 45 make up just a quarter of the potential voters in our baseline estimates above, because they are less likely to say they will leave this year.
That said, this group came out in great numbers just four years ago, helping with a blue wave. And voting once makes you like to do it again.
So, let’s say they appear. A repeat of the 2018 voting pattern would mean voters under the age of 45 would make up almost a third of the 2022 voters. Combine this with the current preferences of voters and you get an estimate that puts the Democrats ahead in about 219 seats. This would basically make House control a toss-up and means Democrats have at least a chance to save their majority. (Republicans will still purge some seats in this scenario.)
…republicans voted even more?
On the other hand, are there indications in our data that Republicans may be expanding their lead from here? Yes. Our statistical simulations account for many knife-edged House races within a point of 50% for each side – they may very well break out towards one party, which usually happens in a wave election. There won’t be much change to happen this year.
One way around this could be to make the Republicans’ current advantage on the ballot a little bigger. What if more Democratic voters – frustrated by the Biden administration and the state of the country – decide to pull out these polls? Specifically, let’s say their turnout is six points lower than the Republican turnout—a plausible scenario, given that Republican voters are six points higher than Democratic voters to report that they are definitely voting this year. are doing.
Assuming current vote preference, this differential voting would overturn many more seats across the country. That would put the GOP ahead of about 233 seats — a nearly complete reversal of the majority Democrats won four years ago. And that 20-seat gain will be largely commensurate with how the party out of power performs in a typical mid-term.
This CBS News/YouGov Battleground Tracker survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,068 registered voters interviewed between October 12-14, 2022. The sample was weighted by gender, age, race and education based on the US Census American Community Survey. and the current population survey, as well as for the 2020 presidential election. The margin of error is ±2.4 points. Estimation of the seats of the House a. based onIncorporating voter responses to this survey. There is an error margin of ±11 seats in each party’s seat estimate.