The national political environment has favored Republicans since last fall. And it has only gotten worse for Democrats in the months since as inflation has skyrocketed and President Joe Biden’s approval rating has dropped.
The recent leak of a draft US Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade seemed to give Democrats a winning issue to rally base and swing voters in the midterm elections. After all, most Americans support the landmark 1973 high court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
Our new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, however, shows that such hopes are likely unfounded. Republicans look like they remain in the driver’s seat for November because voters don’t trust Democrats on the all-important issue of the economy.
The May 3-5 CNN survey, conducted after the draft opinion became public, shows Republicans with a 49% to 42% advantage on the generic congressional ballot. If that 7-point lead held through the election, it would be as large a win for the GOP in the national House vote as it was in 2010 – when Republicans regained the House majority and ended up with 242 seats out of 435.
More to the point, it’s the widest edge for Republicans on the generic ballot in a CNN poll this entire cycle. Just before the draft opinion leaked, an April 28-May 1 CNN poll gave Republicans 45% and Democrats 44% on the generic ballot question. A CNN survey conducted from January to February put Republicans at 44% and Democrats at 43%.
It would be a mistake, at this point, to interpret these results as Republicans benefiting from a potential Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade. Polls shift all the time for many reasons, and my guess is this is just statistical noise.
But it definitely does seem, at this time, that the news of the draft abortion opinion hasn’t shifted voters toward Democrats.
Of course, midterms are not only about voter preference. They’re also about who turns out to vote. Midterm turnout is traditionally significantly lower than in presidential years.
CNN’s polling gets at the potential differential turnout by asking voters how enthusiastic they are about voting in November. The correlation between enthusiasm and turnout isn’t perfect, but a motivated voter is more likely to vote.
You could imagine Democrats becoming more fired up to vote (relative to Republicans) this past week because they would be upset over a potential Supreme Court decision overturning Roe.
It just doesn’t look to be happening, however.
In the new survey, 29% of voters who lean Republican said they were extremely enthusiastic to vote this November. Just 20% of voters who lean Democratic said the same thing.
This 9-point edge is basically no different from the CNN poll taken right before the Supreme Court’s draft opinion was made public. This survey showed an 8-point advantage for Republicans among those extremely enthusiastic to vote. The aforementioned January to February survey also found an 8-point GOP edge.
Four years ago at this point, 27% of voters who leaned Democratic were extremely enthusiastic compared with 21% who leaned Republican. Democrats would go on to win back the US House in 2018.
So why does the national environment still favor Republicans? It’s not because voters are in favor of overturning Roe. (Our poll shows voters are overwhelmingly against doing so.) Nor is it because Americans trust Republicans on abortion. (Our poll indicates Americans see their views as closer to Democrats’ on abortion by double digits.)
The answer lies in what I wrote about earlier this week: the economy. Many more Americans (46%) said they viewed Republicans as closer to their position on the economy than Democrats (31%). The GOP’s 15-point lead on this question is critical given that 50% of Americans put the economy as the top issue facing the country, according to the April 28-May 1 CNN poll.
As much as Democrats wish it wasn’t the case, their electoral hopes will go down the drain if Americans continue to see the economy the way they do now and it remains a top problem in voters’ minds come November. This is probably true regardless of how the Supreme Court ultimately rules on abortion.