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Poll Watch
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

October 4, 2018

The 2018 midterms are now less than five weeks away and, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, Republican voters have caught up with Democrats in viewing the election as "very important." In July, the same poll registered a 10-point enthusiasm gap, and while Democrats and Republicans are both more juiced to vote, Democrats now lead by a 2-point margin, 82 percent to 80 percent. The pollsters cite the contentious Senate hearings over Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination and the sexual assault allegations against him.

"The result of hearings, at least in the short run, is the Republican base was awakened," says Lee Miringoff, Marist's polling director. Kavanaugh is historically unpopular for a nominee and polls show that significantly more people believe his accuser Christine Blasey Ford than him, but "the Republicans' approach has been, and continues to be, all about the base," Miringoff told NPR. "This is their M.O., and that's what we're seeing. That works if turnout is not high."

And Democrats have reason to worry about turnout because key elements of their base — voters under 30, Latinos, black voters — lag in enthusiasm about the election. Voters still want Democrats to win the midterms by 6 points, but that number was 12 points in a mid-September Marist poll. New numbers from Quinnipiac also show the Democrats' advantage in House races shrinking to 7 points, 49 percent to 42 percent, from 14 points. At MSNBC, analyst Howard Fineman suggests Republican voters view attacks on Kavanaugh as attacks on Trump.

"The numbers suggest the big blue wave may have lost some of its momentum as House races tighten," said Quinnipiac's Tim Malloy. "Trump's approval remains deeply in the red."

The NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll was conducted Oct. 1 among of 996 registered voters; it has a margin of error of ±4.2 points. Peter Weber

September 24, 2018

Democrats have opened up a 12-point lead in voter preference for which party controls Congress, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds. That's up from 8 points in August and 6 points the month before that. And there are some bad numbers for Republicans in the survey: Moderates and independents favor Democrats by more than 30 points, women 50 and older by almost 20 points, and voters in competitive congressional districts by 12 points, 53 percent to 41 percent. Fifty-nine percent of voters want to see "a great deal" or "quite a bit" of change.

But there are some warning signs for Democrats, too, the poll finds. First, Republicans have nearly caught up in interest about the midterms, with 61 percent rating their interest a 9 or a 10 on a 10-point scale, versus 65 percent of Democrats. That 4-point lead for Democrats is down from 16 points in July. Also, 73 percent of senior citizens — who tend to vote, and vote more for the GOP — are very interested in the midterms versus just 35 percent of voters age 18 to 34. Younger voters tend to vote more Democratic, when they vote, which isn't often, as Daniel Nichanian notes:

Men are also more interested than women, 60 percent to 56 percent, and white voters (61 percent) more interested than black (53 percent) and Latino voters (49 percent). When NBC and the Journal winnowed the overall congressional preference down to likely voters, the Democrats' 12-point lead shrank to 8 points. The poll was conducted Sept. 16-19 among 900 voters and it has an overall margin of error of ±3.3 percentage points, or ±4 points for likely voters. Peter Weber

September 12, 2018

Voters are shifting toward Democrats two months before pivotal midterm elections, according to polls Wednesday morning from Quinnipiac University and NPR/Marist. In the Quinnipiac poll, Democrats have opened up a 14-point lead on which party voters plan to pick for Congress, 52 percent to 38 percent; notably, independent voters say they'll vote for the Democrat 50 percent to 35 percent. The NPR/Marist poll found a 12-point gap on the generic congressional ballot, with 50 percent of voters picking the Democrat and 38 percent the Republican candidate. In the same poll in July, Democrats had a 7-point lead.

Republicans lost ground across the board in the NPR/Marist poll, but the Midwest appears to have especially swung toward the Democrats, shifting 13 points since July. "Every way we are looking at the data, the same general pattern is emerging," said Marist's Lee Miringoff. "The Midwest is an area that is getting restless about what they hoped was going to occur and what they feel is not occurring." Small towns have also swung toward Democrats by 11 points and Republicans had a 6-point drop in support in rural areas. In the suburbs, Democrats have a 56 percent-to-34 percent advantage over Republicans.

"Could the 'blue wave' become a tsunami?" asked Quinnipiac's Tim Malloy. "There are a lot of factors, and eight weeks of campaigning, that make up the answer to that question." One big factor is President Trump, whose approval rating in the NPR/Marist poll is 39 percent — making it the third poll this week to put his approval number below 40 percent. Miringoff suggests Trump's disruptive trade war is eroding his support among Midwestern farmers and factory workers. Trump's low approval rating is clearly "casting a cloud over the GOP Congress," Miringoff said. The Late Show had some fun imagining the White House's pushback.

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,038 voters by phone Sept. 6-9, and its poll has a ±3.7-point margin of error. Marist surveyed 777 voters Sept. 5-9, and its poll's margin of error is ±4 points. Peter Weber

September 11, 2018

Americans are happy with the economy, according to two polls released Monday. With President Trump? Not so much.

A new Quinnipiac University poll puts Trump's job approval rating at 38 percent, with 54 percent disapproving, a drop of 3 percentage points from Trump's 41 percent approval number on Aug. 14. Trump approval saw an even bigger slump in CNN/SRSS's poll, hitting 36 percent, from 42 percent in August. That drop was led by independents, 31 percent of whom approve of his job performance, from 47 percent last month. When it comes to the economy, meanwhile, 70 percent of Americans in Quinnipiac's poll say it is good or excellent, while CNN's poll found 69 percent calling the economy "good" and 26 percent "very good."

"The economy booms, but President Donald Trump's numbers are a bust," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll. "An anemic 38 percent approval rating is compounded by lows on honesty, strength, and intelligence. But Trump's base remains loyal." In the Quinnipiac poll, 60 percent of voters said Trump is not honest, a new low, while 32 percent said he is honest. In CNN's poll, only 32 percent of adults said Trump is honest and trustworthy, a new low in CNN's polling. Trump fared poorly on assessed smarts, too, with a Quinnipiac-record-low 51 percent saying he is intelligent, from 57 percent in July and 74 percent in November 2016. Only 48 percent of voters said he is mentally stable, and 55 percent judged him not fit to serve as president.

Trump's approval rating in the RealClearPolitics average is 41.1 percent, with 53.5 percent disapproving. Both new polls were conducted via phone Sept. 6-9; Quinnipiac surveyed 1,038 voters nationwide, with a ±3.7 point margin of error, while CNN and SRSS contacted 1,003 adults, reporting a margin of sampling error of ±3.8 points. Peter Weber

September 7, 2018

NBC News released a poll of Tennessee conducted with Marist on Thursday, and Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen has a statistically insignificant 2 percentage point lead over Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn among likely voters. Among all registered voters, Bredesesn's lead expands to 4 points, 48 percent to 44 percent. Both results are within the poll's margin of error (±4.5 points for registered voters, ±5.5 points for likely voters), but combined with NBC/Marist polls this week from Indiana and Missouri, they suggest Democrats have a shot at winning control of the Senate in November, despite an unfavorable map.

Bredesen, a popular former governor, and Blackburn are running to succeed Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). Democrats, meanwhile, are defending Senate seats in Missouri, Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri, Florida, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states President Trump won in 2016. They need a net gain of two seats to win control, and their best shots of flipping seats are Arizona and Nevada.

In NBC/Marist's poll of Indiana released Wednesday, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) leads GOP challenger Mike Braun 49 percent to 43 percent among likely voters, just outside the poll's ±5 point margin of error. In Missouri, Tuesday's NBC/Marist poll found Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) and state Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) tied in a two-way race, 47 percent each, and McCaskill takes a 4-point lead if Libertarian and Green candidates are included. All three polls were conducted Aug. 25-29. Political handicapper Stuart Rothenberg, looking at those polls and others in Florida, West Virginia, and elsewhere, sees new hope for the Democrats.

Democrats have an 8.6-point lead in the generic congressional ballot, according to the RealClearPolitics average, They are favorites to win the House, but to flip the Senate, Democrats would pretty much have to run the board. That's looking slightly more likely than before. Peter Weber

September 4, 2018

Labor Day traditionally kicks off the congressional campaign season, and a new Washington Post-ABC News poll has some encouraging news for Democrats. Registered voters in the survey favor the Democrat in their district over the Republican, 52 percent to 38 percent, a 14-point lead. That's an improvement from the 4-point lead Democrats had in April's Post-ABC News poll and closer to the 12-point lead they had in January. Independent voters favor the Democrat over the Republican 50 percent to 32 percent.

President Trump plays an outsize role in motivation to vote and which party people say they will vote for. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say they are more likely to vote, 80 percent versus 74 percent for Republicans, and 60 percent of voters want Democrats to control at least one house of Congress "as a check on Trump." Women are more likely than men to disapprove of Trump, 66 percent to 52 percent (including 59 percent of women who strongly disapprove, versus 45 percent of men), and women support the Democrats by a 25-point margin. The Democrats have opened up their 14-point lead even as 58 percent of American adults say the economy is good or excellent.

The poll was conducted Aug. 26-29 among a national random sample of 1,003 adults, including 879 registered voters, and it has a margin of error of ±3.5 percentage points overall and ±4 points among the registered-voter sample. Peter Weber

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