Poll Watch
November 5, 2018

Democrats head into Tuesday's midterm elections with a 13-point lead over Republicans on the generic congressional ballot, according to a CNN/SSRS poll released Monday. The Democrats' 55 percent to 42 percent lead among likely voters is unchanged from early October, narrower than the party's lead before the 2006 Democratic wave election, and a little wider than the GOP's 10-point lead before its 2010 red wave, CNN says. Polls from NBC News/Wall Street Journal and ABC News/Washington Post released Sunday found Democrats with slimmer leads of 7 points and 8 points, respectively.

The Democrats' lead in the CNN poll is premised on lopsided support among women, independents, and black and Latino voters. About 42 percent of likely voters say their vote will be to register opposition to President Trump while 28 percent said it will be to support him. Trump's approval rating in the poll is 39 percent. Democrats have only a 4-point edge in voter enthusiasm. SRSS conducted the poll for CNN by phone Nov. 1-3 among 1,518 adults, including 1,151 likely voters. The margin of sampling error is ±3.1 percentage points for all adults, ±3.5 points for likely voters.

Polls notwithstanding, "on the cusp of Tuesday's vote, many Democrats are as anxious as they are hopeful," says Julie Pace at The Associated Press. "Their memories from 2016, when they watched in disbelief as Donald Trump defied polls, expectations, and political norms, are still fresh. And as Trump travels the country armed with a divisive and racially charged closing campaign message, the test for Democrats now feels at once similar and more urgent than it did two years ago: They failed to stop Trump then, what if they fall short again?" Saturday Night Live captured this tension in a bitingly on-point fake midterm commercial. You can watch below. Peter Weber

November 5, 2018

Two polls released Sunday show Democrats with a modest but not comfortable lead in voter preference for which party controls Congress. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found a 7-percentage point lead for Democrats, 50 percent to 43 percent, down from a 9-point lead in the previous poll. A Washington Post/ABC News poll recorded an 8-point lead for Democrats, 52 percent to 44 percent, but that's down from a 13-point lead in October. In both cases, Republican base voters have become more engaged and some independents have shifted to backing the Republican.

In the most competitive House races, both polls showed Democrats with a narrower lead — 5 points for Washington Post/ABC News, 3 points for WSJ/NBC News. Peter Hart, the Democratic pollster for the WSJ/NBC News poll, compared the results to a kaleidoscope: "Turn it one way, and the numbers suggest a good Democratic night. Turn it again, and it suggests the GOP might squeak through." The GOP pollster, Bill McInturff, said the race is "more competitive," but "for Republicans, it feels slightly short of where you'd want to be for a national election.''

"Polls aren't always right," FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver said on Sunday's ABC This Week. "If polls are right you would have a split outcome," with Democrats winning the House and Republicans keeping control of the Senate. He then explained why the polls might be wrong.

On NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, Chuck Todd highlighted the truism that the groups that turn out to vote will determine who wins.

The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll surveyed 1,000 registered voters, including 744 likely voters, Nov. 1-3, and its margin of error is ±3.1 percentage points among registered voters, ±3.53 points among likely voters. The Washington Post/ABC News poll was conducted Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 in English and Spanish by Langer Research Associates. It surveyed 1,041 registered voters and had a margin of sampling error of ±3.5 points. Peter Weber

October 30, 2018

Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) has opened up a 6-point lead over GOP rival Rep. Martha McSally in Arizona's hard-fought Senate race, according to a new NBC News/Marist poll released Tuesday. In the same poll last month, Sinema led McSally by 3 points, 48 percent to 45 percent. Her current 50 percent to 44 percent lead among likely voters slips to 3 points when Green Party candidate Angela Green is included, Marist found.

Sinema's lead is fueled by lopsided support from women, Latinos, and independents. It is within the poll's ±5.4 percentage points margin of error for likely voters, and the RealClearPolitics average of polls, which doesn't include this one, has McSally up 0.7 points. "Arizona may play a pivotal role in determining the makeup of the next Senate," says Marists's Lee Miringoff. "Right now, the contest is very competitive." The poll was conducted by phone Oct. 23-27 among 793 registered voters and 506 likely voters, 44 percent of whom said they have already voted.

Lauren Passalacqua, communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, tells FiveThirtyEight that this is "an exciting race because this is the first election cycle where you're seeing a lot of resources pulled into the state. Democrats closed the registration advantage that Republicans had." FiveThirtyEight gives Sinema a 5 in 8 shot at beating McSally, but Republican strategist Josh Holmes argues that "Sinema has taken on an awful lot of water in the last couple of weeks, and "it's still a very tight race. Republicans, to a person, feel like we have a superior candidate with better credentials and a better fit ideologically for the state." Peter Weber

October 30, 2018

The idea of a "blue wave" Nov. 6 has become something of a hackneyed punch line, thanks to overuse and also the Democrats' receding odds of flipping the Senate. But a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll released Monday showed Democrats with a wavelike 17-point advantage over Republicans on which party likely voters say they'll cast their ballot for next week. The 57 percent to 40 percent result represents a 4-point shift toward Democrats from a week earlier. The RealClearPolitics average shows Democrats with a smaller 7.6-point lead on the generic congressional ballot.

The eye-catching 17-point lead "may partly reflect timing," the Los Angeles Times notes. "The final two days of the poll coincided with the arrest on Friday of a Florida man on charges of sending explosive devices to prominent Democrats and critics of President Trump, and the killing on Saturday of 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh." But Republicans are pouring money into once-safe House races, and the rise in support for Democrats "stemmed from small shifts among several groups of voters," not just one segment of the electorate, the Times adds. The decisive group, however, could be the "'hold your nose and vote' brigade" that backed Trump in 2016 but "overwhelmingly favored the Democrats" this election.

In 2016, these "double negative" voters — who disliked the leaders of both parties — were mostly Republicans, but this year they are more often independent-leaning women, the Times says, according to the poll. Democrats also led Republicans by a narrower 10 points, 52 percent to 42 percent, in a separate measure of how likely voters were to actually cast their ballot this year.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll surveyed 3,453 registered voters, 2,350 of whom were deemed likely to vote and 577 who already voted, Oct. 21-27. The margin of error was ±2 percentage points. Peter Weber

October 22, 2018

A CNN/SSRS poll of Florida's Senate and gubernatorial races released Sunday had some good news for Democrats that CNN says "could be an outlier" or "an indicator of renewed Democratic enthusiasm." In the gubernatorial race, Democrat Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, opened up a 12-point lead among likely voters over former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), 54 percent to 42 percent. Incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has a smaller 5-point lead over Gov. Rick Scott (R), 50 percent to 45 percent, within the poll's margin of error.

The Democrats, especially Gillum, are being buoyed by lopsided advantages among women, younger voters, and non-white voters. The Republicans have a wide lead on the issue of the economy and the Democrats dominate on the issue of health care. Gillum and Scott are seen getting a boost from their responses to Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle.

As CNN political analyst Mark Preston notes in the video below, the races are likely tighter than this poll suggests — according to the RealClearPolitics average, Gillum leads DeSantis by 3.7 percentage points, thanks largely to the boost from this CNN poll, and Nelson leads Scott by 1.3 points. FiveThirtyEight rates the Gillum-DeSantis race a "likely Democratic" pickup. Several reputable polls have registered greater Democratic enthusiasm.

SRSS conducted the CNN poll Oct. 16-20 on landlines and cellphones, contacting 1,012 adults, including 872 registered voters and 759 likely voters. The margin of error for registered voters is ±3.9 percentage points and for likely voters, ±4.2 points. "The Democratic advantages in the poll were similar across multiple versions of a likely voter model, including those driven more by interest in the campaign and those which placed stronger emphasis on past voting behavior," CNN notes. Peter Weber

October 22, 2018

President Trump has apparently managed to make people very excited to vote in midterm elections. The percentage of voters with a high interest in the election — a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale — has jumped to 65 percent, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday, the highest numbers ever recorded in the poll. A record-high 72 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Republicans are very interested, versus 46 percent among independents.

Overall, 50 percent of likely voters want Democrats to control Congress versus 41 percent who favor Republicans, an improvement of 1 percentage point for Democrats since the September survey. Unusually for a midterm election, Democrats fare better among likely voters than the overall electorate, where they hold a 48-41 percent advantage, down from 12 points in the September survey. The percentage of engaged Latino and young voters, two groups that skew Democratic, has jumped by double digits from previous NBC/WSJ polls. Women favor Democrats by 25 points.

"Although Democrats are preferred in the national poll overall, their advantage has vanished in the House districts that matter most," The Wall Street Journal reports. And as Republican interest in the midterms has jumped, so have Trump's poll numbers — he gets his best job approval number to date in the poll, with 47 percent approving and 49 percent disapproving. Among likely voters, 45 percent approve of Trump and 52 percent disapprove.

The "blue wave" has run into a "riptide of uncertainty" from the "surge of Republican intensity," said Democratic pollster Fred Yang. Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the poll with Yang, called the election "a barnburner." Republicans are in a better position, he added, but "you've got to look where the tilt is going. And the tilt didn't change." NBC's Chuck Todd says the data point to a "choose your own adventure" election:

The poll was conducted via telephone Oct. 14-17 among 900 registered voters and 645 likely voters, with an overall margin of error of ±3.3 percentage points, ±3.9 points among likely voters. Peter Weber

October 5, 2018

Democrats are pushing hard to flip six Republican-held House seats in California, and in a Los Angeles Times/UC Berkeley's Institute for Governmental Studies (IGS) poll released Thursday, they are leading or tied in all six. "The Democratic tide threatens to swamp congressional districts in Southern California's suburbs that Republicans have controlled for decades," boosting Democrats' hopes of winning the House in November, the Times says. "But if the tide ebbs only slightly, the GOP could emerge with much of its control intact." Voting by mail begins on Monday.

The unpopularity of President Trump "appears to be the main motivator for voters in these districts," said Mark DiCamillo, the Berkeley IGS poll director. "He's the central figure." But the GOP's strategies — painting opponents as too liberal, banking on a gas tax repeal to boost support — seem to have mostly fallen flat, the Times says.

The biggest pickup opportunities for Democrats are California's 49th and 45th Congressional Districts, in Orange and San Diego counties, the poll found. In the 49th, represented by retiring Rep. Darrell Issa (R), Democrat Mike Levin has a 55 percent to 41 percent lead over Republican Diane Harkey. Rep. Mimi Walters (R) in the 45th District trails Democratic challenger Katie Porter, 45 percent to 52 percent. In the 48th District, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) and Democrat Harley Rouda are tied at 48 percent apiece, Democrat Gil Cisneros is leading Republican Young Kim by 1 point in the open 39th District, Democrat Katie Hill leads Rep. Steve Knight (R) by 4 points in the 25th District, and in the Central Valley's 10th District, Rep. Jeff Denham (R) trails Democrat Josh Harder, 45 percent to 50 percent.

The poll also found Rep. Devin Nunes (R) leading Democratic challenger Andrew Janz 53 percent to 45 percent, and indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter (R) ahead of Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar 49 percent to 47 percent. The Berkeley IGS poll surveyed 5,090 likely voters online Sept. 16-23, and the margin of error ranges from ±4 points to ±6 points. Peter Weber

October 4, 2018

Opposition to Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination has grown steadily since last Thursday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, and currently 41 percent oppose his confirmation while 33 percent support it, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Wednesday. That's a 4 percentage point rise in opposition to Kavanaugh's nomination, driven by those who previously had no opinion; support for his nomination has remained relatively stable, Reuters says. (The poll was conducted online Sept. 25 to Oct. 1 among 4,057 American adults, with a credibility interval of about 2 points.)

At the same time, Republican strategists, PAC heads, and others with a strong vested interest in Republicans keeping control of Congress are reporting that the Kavanaugh fight has prompted a "tidal shift" in GOP voters, Axios says. "The Kavanaugh debate has dropped a political grenade into the middle of an electorate that had been largely locked in Democrats' favor for the past six months," says Josh Holmes, a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Republicans point to a new Marist poll showing the Democratic enthusiasm gap has shrunk to a statistically insignificant 2 points, from 10 points last month.

At the same time, an Economist/YouGov poll released Wednesday shows Democrats expanding their lead on the generic House ballot, from 2 points to 5 points — still below the RealClearPolitics average of 7.7 points. So is the Kavanaugh sexual assault imbroglio helping or hurting Republicans? Well, "you can cobble together a credible case that polls since last Thursday's Senate hearings have been comparatively good for Republicans," FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver wrote Thursday, and "if you were trying to cite a series of strong Democratic polls since the hearings, you wouldn't have much problem." But overall, the polls are getting worse for Republicans in the House contest and better for Republicans in the Senate race, and it's possible that whichever party loses the Kavanaugh fight will get the biggest bump in the midterms. You can read more of Silver's analysis at FiveThirtyEight. Peter Weber

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