The economy and inflation are the dominant issues three weeks out from the midterm congressional elections, challenging Democrats’ chances of maintaining control of Congress, according to a string of new polls released in the last few days.
Widespread impressions of the economy as bad and worsening, combined with dissatisfaction with President Joe Biden and the way things are going in the country, suggest that the nation’s overall political mood – which had been somewhat more favorable for Democrats following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade – may be tilting more in Republicans’ favor.
A CBS News/YouGov survey released Sunday finds 65% of voters feel the economy is getting worse and 68% say the Biden administration could be doing more to combat inflation. In a New York Times/Siena College poll released Monday, 64% of likely voters say the United States is heading in the wrong direction, with the economy (26%) and inflation (18%) the only issues named by double-digit shares of likely voters as the most important problem facing the country today, with all other issues at 8% or less. And 70% of registered voters say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the US today, according to an AP-NORC survey out Monday, including majorities across party lines.
The Times/Siena poll finds Republican congressional nominees with 49% support to 45% for Democrats among likely voters, a split that is within the poll’s margin of sampling error. In the CBS/YouGov poll, likely voter preferences break 47% for the Republicans to 45% for the Democrats, also within the poll’s margin of error.
A new CNN Poll of Polls average finds an even divide in generic ballot polling, with both Democratic and Republican nominees holding 46% support among voters in the new Poll of Polls, compared with a narrow, 3-point tilt toward the Democrats in the average as recently as late September.
Three of the five polls included in the average are reporting results among likely voters. A fourth, from Fox News, which showed Democrats at 44% to Republicans’ 41% among registered voters, finds a 47% Republican to 46% Democratic split among those who say they feel certain they will vote this fall.
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A close divide in generic ballot preferences often signals Republican gains in the House. Broadly speaking, voter preferences for partisan candidates do not always translate directly into a similar result in the share of House seats. In some recent elections, Republicans have won a larger share of seats than their share of the nationwide popular vote, partly due to redistricting.
Recent polls suggest that a widespread focus on the economy has stalled Democratic momentum gained after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling that ended federal protections for abortion rights. A CNN poll released last week found that 9 in 10 registered voters called the economy important to their vote, while 72% rated abortion as that important. Those registered voters who consider the economy extremely important to their vote break sharply toward the Republican in their districts, 53% to 38%.
The same survey showed that 48% of likely voters backed the Republican nominee across the competitive congressional districts that will ultimately decide control of the House, while 43% in that group backed the Democrat. Registered voters in those districts were more likely than those nationwide to consider economic concerns deeply important to their voting decision, and those voters break even more sharply toward the Republican nominee (56% to 30%).
More on House races
Over the course of this year, momentum in the race for the House has shifted from a clear GOP advantage to an environment in which Democrats appeared more competitive, and it now seems to be tilting back toward the Republicans. The nationwide tied contest in the current polling average is weaker for Republicans than polls would have suggested before the Dobbs decision. Early this year, high-quality polls consistently found the GOP with significant leads over the Democrats on a generic ballot question. Democrats narrowed that gap sharply over the summer, culminating in a narrow numeric advantage in the average and in most polls on the generic ballot. But just one poll meeting CNN’s standards for reporting over that time found Democrats with a significant lead among voters. None of the polls included in the current average shows a clear leader between the two parties in the race for control of the House.
The CNN Poll of Polls is an average of the five most recent nonpartisan, national surveys of either registered or likely voters on generic ballot preference within voters’ own districts that meet CNN’s standards. The poll of polls includes results from the NPR/Marist poll conducted September 27-29, the CNN poll conducted September 3-October 5, the CBS News/YouGov poll conducted October 12-14, the Fox News poll conducted October 9-12 and the New York Times/Siena College poll conducted October 9-12.