If recent history is any guide, Democrats need a clear lead in this measure to delay Republican gains. Many other Democratic seats are considered draws, according to political handicappers, putting the party at a disadvantage ahead of Tuesday. At this point, four years ago, when they came to power in the House by reprimanding President Donald Trump, Democrats was seven points ahead on voters’ intentions. But when Republicans won big victories in 2010 and 2014, they had slightly larger pre-election advantages than current polls show.
While Republicans need to win a net five seats to take control of the House, Democrats face overwhelming odds to prevent that from happening. The poll results cannot predict the number of seats that might change hands, only the general direction of voters’ intentions. The poll also gives no insight into the state of the Senate races or the GOP’s chances of winning a majority in what is now a 50-50 Democrat-controlled chamber.
Another factor in favor of the GOP: Republicans continue to be more confident in voting, with 80% of Republican-leaning voters saying they are certain to vote or have done so, slightly more than 74% of voters in democratic leaning. Certainty of voting among Democrats is eight percentage points lower than in 2018, while it remains stable among Republicans.
The attention gap is even wider, with 48% of Republican-leaning voters following the election “very closely” or “very closely,” compared to 37% of Democratic-leaning voters. In 2018, there was little difference in the attention Democratic and Republican voters gave to the election.
Voters’ confidence in the electoral process reflects doubts sown after the 2020 election, in which defeated Trump refused to cave to Joe Biden and made unfounded allegations of voter fraud before his supporters stormed the Capitol American on January 6, 2021. By more than 2 to 1, Americans say they are very or somewhat confident that votes in the midterm elections will be counted accurately, on par with previous years. This includes more than 8 in 10 Democrats and more than 6 in 10 Independents. Among Republicans, 55% express confidence compared to 45% who do not, including 19% who say they have no confidence in a count accurate.
Several hundred GOP candidates for the House, Senate or statewide this year have denied or questioned the results of the 2020 election. Two years after that vote, the new poll finds more than one in three adults who say they are not convinced that Biden was legitimately elected. That includes more than 7 in 10 Republicans.
Days before the final votes are cast and counted, the survey highlights reasons Democrats are on the defensive, including that their candidates are burdened with Biden’s low approval ratings. Biden’s approval rating stands at 41%, little changed from 39% in September, with 53% disapproval. Among registered voters, his ratings are 43% positive, 53% negative.
Just over 8 in 10 Democratic voters give Biden positive ratings. Meanwhile, 9 out of 10 Republican voters disapprove of the president’s job performance. Among independents, 39% approve of how Biden handles his work and 56% disapprove. Voters who approve of Biden support Democrats 90% to 8%, disapprovers support Republicans 83% to 12%. Overall, the Democratic candidates outperform Biden by five points among registered voters.
There’s a noticeable imbalance in the intensity of these Biden assessments, with 44% of voters saying they strongly disapprove of the way the president has handled his job versus 19% saying they strongly approve. Biden’s strong disapproval among independent voters is close to the overall result at 42%.
Abortion rights and threats to democracy animate many Democratic voters in particular, and these issues are used in closing messages to drive turnout to offset overall GOP benefits. Many Democratic candidates have highlighted abortion in their TV ads, and Biden delivered a speech Wednesday night about threats to democracy, hoping to inspire the party’s base.
The partisan lines that define the current state of the electorate are etched strongly in the new poll. More than 9 in 10 Republicans and Democrats say they will vote for their party’s House candidate. Meanwhile, likely independent voters split 53% against 45% for Republicans. In 2018, independent voters backed Democrats over Republicans in House races by 54% to 42%, according to network exit polls.
Among likely voters, there is a significant gender gap, with 62% of men saying they plan to vote for the Republican candidate in their riding and 59% of women saying they would support the Democratic candidate.
An equally large difference appears across education levels, with 57% of likely voters without a college degree favoring Republicans and 58% of those with degrees supporting Democrats. By more than 2 to 1, white voters without a college degree favor Republicans while a majority of educated white voters (55%) support Democrats.
Voters’ intentions have changed little since a September poll. They are less positive for Republicans than at the start of the year, before the Supreme Court reversed Roe vs. Wade and elevated abortion rights as a central issue in midterm campaigns.
An illustration of the division of the American electorate is the narrow division on the question of which party voters trust to tackle the main problems facing the country in the years to come. On this point, 42% say they trust the Republicans, 40% the Democrats.
But on specific issues, the advantages of each side stand out. Among registered voters, Republicans hold a 14-point advantage on the economy, a 12-point advantage on inflation and rising prices (though that gap has narrowed since September), and a 20-point advantage on the crime. The Democrats have a 13-point advantage on abortion and a 19-point advantage on climate change.
On immigration and threats to democracy, the former an issue pushed hard by Republicans and the latter highlighted by Democrats, neither party enjoys a clear advantage, although there are big partisan differences. out of the two that are masked by the overall results. The two parties are also roughly even in managing education and schools, again with large partisan differences.
Republicans have sought to make crime a major issue this year, and their advantage on the issue has grown significantly. In the summer of 2021, both sides were rated equally in terms of confidence in dealing with crime. Last spring, the GOP advantage had reached a double-digit advantage and has since increased slightly.
When asked which of the eight issues would be one of the most important in influencing their vote, the economy was cited by 26% of likely voters, abortion by 22%, inflation and threats to democracy by 21% each. The 26% of voters who ranked the economy as one of the most important factors in their vote favor Republicans by 44 points. The 22% who cited abortion as one of the most important issues pull Democrats back 54 points.
Twice as many likely Republican voters as Democratic voters cite the economy as one of the most important issues in their vote (32% vs. 15%). When it comes to abortion, the trend reversed, with 32% of likely Democratic voters citing it as one of the most important issues, compared to 12% of Republicans. Among independents, 28% say the economy is key to their decision, while 20% cite abortion.
The impact of inflation is revealed in another question, which asked people to compare their family’s financial situation with that of two years ago. More than 4 in 10 say it’s worse, about 4 in 10 say it’s the same, and not quite 2 in 10 say it’s better.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which struck down federal abortion protections, is opposed by more than 6 in 10 adults, including nearly 9 in 10 Democrats and more than 6 in 10 independents. Just over half of Republicans support the decision.
The percentage of adults who say abortion should be legal in all or most cases has risen since the ruling, with 66 per cent saying it should be legal all or most of the time, the highest in a post-ABC poll since 1995, when the question was first asked.
But Democrats have yet to unify abortion-rights supporters behind their party, with voters who support legal abortion favoring Democrats for Congress by 67% to 29%, while Republicans receive support from 88% among voters who say abortion should be illegal. Turnout is also a factor, with opponents of legal abortion being nine points more likely to say they are sure to vote or have already voted.
The Post-ABC Poll was conducted by telephone from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2 among a random national sample of 1,005 adults, 75% of whom were contacted by cell phone. Both the overall sample and the subsample of 881 registered voters have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points. The margin of error is 4.5 points among the sample of 708 likely voters.