By Dave Andrusko
As promised, we are writing about the CBS News poll that offered plenty of encouragement. We talked about the equally positive New York Times news here.
So what can we take away from “GOP keeps lead for House control, Democrats’ momentum stalls amid economy worries — CBS News Battleground Tracker poll” by Anthony Salvanto, Kabir Khanna, Jennifer De Pinto, and Fred Backus?
The story begins
For two months the Democrats chipped away at the Republicans’ lead in the battle for House control, helped by motivated abortion-rights voters and what turned out to be fleeting glimmers of optimism about the economy. But that momentum has stalled, at least for now, and the Republicans’ House lead has stabilized today at 224 seats to the Democrats’ 211. The Republicans’ lead had shrunk in the two previous model runs of September and August.
Why? In a word inflation. Prices keep going up and up and up. And there is every reason to believe the rise in prices will continue. And a particular subset is blaming Democrats:
By double digits, Democrats are still losing independents who report their personal financial situation is bad, and those for whom high prices have made their lives worse or more difficult.
And Biden’s role?
In all, fewer than half, 45% of voters, say Biden’s policies bear “a great deal” of responsibility for the current economy, but another quarter say “some.”
When reporting numbers, rarely do you separate “a great deal” and “some”—in this case assigning blame for the state of the economy. A more honest way of putting it is that a total of 71% (45% +26%] blame Biden. Only 28% [“a little”-20% and “none at all”—8%] don’t.
What about abortion? The number who say abortion is very important in their vote for Congress “is actually a little lower now than last month”: down from 59% to 54%.
Which is a far cry from what the New York Times, by contrast, found. Those who thought abortion was the “most important problem facing the country today” “remained flat, at 5%.”
‘Very important” versus “most important.”
At the end of the article, the CBS News reporters offer some hypotheticals. It’s good news for Democrats if more young people show up to vote. But…
On the flipside, are there indications in our data that Republicans could expand their lead from here? Yes. Our statistical simulations account for several knife-edge House races within a point of 50% for each side — they may very well break heavily toward one party, which is typically what happens in a wave election. This year it wouldn’t take much change for that to happen.
One way it could occur is that Republicans’ current advantage on turnout grows a bit larger. What if more Democratic voters — disappointed with the Biden administration and the state of the country — decide to sit these elections out? Specifically, suppose their turnout ends up six points lower than Republican turnout — a plausible scenario, given that Republican voters are six points more likely than Democratic voters to report they’re definitely voting this year.
Assuming current vote preferences hold, this differential turnout would flip several more seats across the country. It would put the GOP ahead in approximately 233 seats — a near complete reversal of the majority Democrats won four years ago. And that 20-seat gain would be very much in line with how the party out of power performs in a typical midterm.