Drew Angerer/Getty Images
With just over a month to go until the 2022 midterm elections, Democrats are starting to rally around President Biden, according to the latest NPR/Marist Poll.
Biden’s approval rating hits 44%, marking a third consecutive month of improvement. He had bottomed out in July at around 36%. Democrats are also broadly keeping pace with Republicans in enthusiasm for this fall’s election, a trend that continues after the Supreme Court’s ruling in June. Dobbs decision that reversed the guaranteed right to abortion in this country.
These are good signs for Democrats, but there are also warnings – 7 in 10 respondents said they think the country is heading in the wrong direction, and inflation continues to rank as the top issue facing voters say they will think when they cast a ballot.
And when it comes to enthusiasm, while white college-educated voters — who have tended to be Democrats over the past decade — are among the most engaged group of voters, the poll found that Young and black voters are among the least likely to vote this fall.
Moreover, Democrats are below where they always have to be on the question of who people say they would vote for if the election were held today, the so-called congressional test of the vote. And the investigation also comes at a time when Republicans – following a deluge of multimillion-dollar ad campaigns – started to see improvements in some critical Senate races which will determine the control of this room.
Whatever the results, the groundwork is already laid for the results to be challenged. The Trump factor in this election has been made clear with candidates emulating the former president’s pompous style and spreading his lie about stealing the 2020 presidential election. That is of course untrue. President Biden has won, and it has been proven time and time again in court and out of court.
But the survey found that only half (49%) of respondents think the candidate they backed should definitely back down if their opponent is declared the winner – and only a third of Republican voters think so.
Democrats and independents fuel Biden’s improvement
A president’s approval rating has traditionally been one of the key indicators of how a president’s party will fare in congressional elections. And Democratic strategists feared that Democratic candidates could far outperform their president’s numbers.
The increase comes because Biden sees double-digit improvement with Democrats and independents. In July, only 75% of Democrats said they approved of the president’s job, well below the traditional position of a presidential party. But now that number is up to 87%.
In July, 28% of independents approved. But since then there has been something of a thaw – 39% approve, fewer disapprove and more independents have moved into the undecided category.
Biden has had a few victories over the past few months, including signing the Cut Inflation Act into law. And while prices are still higher than last year on average, gasoline prices are falling.
Biden also suffered from an intensity problem. In July, just 11% said they strongly approved of the work he was doing. That’s double in this poll — 24%.
It’s the highest “strongly endorsed” score for Biden since July 2021, a month before withdrawing from Afghanistan when Biden saw his ratings drop.
Strong voter turnout looks likely
More than 8 in 10 registered voters who responded to the poll said they would “definitely vote” this fall – 82% of Democrats said so, as did 88% of Republicans and 80% of independents.
The groups most likely to say so were white college-educated women and men, men who live in small towns or suburbs, and baby boomers (those 58 and older).
The least likely were black voters, Gen Z and millennials (those 41 and younger), and those living in rural areas.
Asked about their interest in the election on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being very interested and 5 not at all interested, about 7 in 10 described themselves as very interested.
Again, Republicans are slightly ahead of Democrats in their level of interest. The groups most likely to say they were very interested were white college graduates, particularly men, and older voters.
The least likely to say so were younger voters, people earning less than $50,000 a year; black voters; parents with children under 18; those who did not graduate from college, especially white women without degrees; and those who live in small towns.
Congressional Voting Test
When voters were asked who they would vote for in their congressional district, a Democrat or a Republican, if the election were held today, the parties were statistically tied. Democrats have a narrow 46% to 44% advantage in the survey.
That’s within the margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points, which means the results could be about 4 points higher or lower.
Traditionally, Democrats need a wider than 2-point advantage on the congressional ballot to succeed in congressional elections.
This is because competitive races are held in areas that are more conservative than the country as a whole, the way districts are drawn, and the concentration of Democrats in cities.
Republicans need a net gain of five seats in these midterm elections to take control of the House.
Take a look at the data, when Democrats have made big gains in the House in recent midterms (2006 and 2018), they had advantages of at least 7 points on the measure. When the Republicans made gains (2010 and 2014), they didn’t need such big leads.
In 2014, for example, when Republicans won 13 seats, they had just a 2-point advantage on the issue, in the polls average. In 2010, when they won 63 seats, they had a 9 point advantage.
On the issues
From a choice of five issues – inflation, preservation of democracy, abortion, immigration and health care – inflation has once again topped the minds when people think about voting in this election.
(NPR/PBS from last month NewsTime/Marist survey took a closer look at the issues important to voters. Republicans are using crime more in their ads in key states like Wisconsin. Last month, he ranked sixth overall, though he was making progress with Republicans in particular.)
Nearly 4 in 10 (37%) said inflation was their priority, followed by preserving democracy (27%), abortion (13%), immigration (10%) and health care (10%).
For Democrats, the preservation of democracy (32%) exceeds abortion (21%).
A majority of Republicans ranked inflation as their top issue, immigration second (18%) and preserving democracy third (17%). Of course, what preserving democracy means for a Democrat and a Trump-supporting Republican could be very different.
For the independents, it is inflation (38%), followed by the preservation of democracy (33%) then immigration (12%).
The way people will vote is also very different. The pandemic has reshaped voting procedures with a record number of postal votes. A plurality of Democrats say they will vote by mail in November, but the overwhelming majority of Republicans say they will still vote in person. A slim majority of independents also said they intended to vote in person.
Confidence in elections is falling, not just among Republicans
Three-quarters of those polled said they have confidence in their state or local governments to hold fair and accurate elections in November, the highest level since Biden took office.
But there was a significant gap on this between Democrats and Republicans — 92% of Democrats said they were confident, while 69% of Republicans said they were. (Three-quarters of independents also said so.)
However, there were also racial and generational divides that crossed political and economic lines. In addition to Trump supporters, those without a college degree and those living in small towns and rural areas also among the least likely to say they had confidence in the election results this fall were black, Latino and younger voters, groups who have leaned toward Democrats, as well as those earning less than $50,000 a year.
Most likely to be trusted: Biden supporters and white college graduates, especially female graduates.
Despite their low confidence in the election, however, Republicans were the most likely to say they always display an American flag on their property – nearly 6 in 10 said so, compared to 22% of Democrats and 27% of independents. A majority of Democrats (54%) said they never do.
Trump, like other right-wing populists around the world, has been able to use white grievances and nationalism as fuel for his political power, which will be a central part of a Trump candidacy in 2024, should he decide to run. .
This survey of 1,690 adults was conducted September 27-29 and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points. It includes 1,562 registered voters. When voters are referenced, there is a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points.