I feel a tad awkward focusing on a single poll when I have been so harsh on them but in this case the poll – the most recent WashPo/ABC survey – fits two molds. First – off, it screens Likely Voters instead of Registered Voters. LV models screen for past voting history, intent to vote and more vs. RV models which vary widely based on individual state laws and rules around voter rolls. Secondly, the survey has a left leaning slant and was widely off in 2020 to the Left unlike Trafalgar or Rasmussen which have shown a right leaning slant this year.
The toplines of the survey are straight – forward. Among Registered Voters, the GOP leads on the generic ballot by a single point, 47 – 46. But, when the screen is expanded to Likely Voters, the GOP’s lead expands to 51 – 46.
That’s great news for the GOP in the sense a more traditional “gold standard” (name only means something to the elite) pollster is showing them ahead but the truly stellar news can be found below the toplines.
In battleground House districts defined as competitive by 538 as Lean R or Lean D, the GOP has a whopping 55 percent to 34 percent lead among LV’s. Now, to be fair, the subsample of voters in battleground districts is pretty small but the result fits with the issue front voters are considering.
The GOP is favored in three of the four issues rated most important by voters, the economy (considered important by 84 percent), education (77 percent), inflation (76 percent), and crime (69 percent). The GOP is +16 on the economy, +19 on inflation and +14 on crime. Democrats hold a mere +6 on education, well below their historic norm.
This issue set explains why House Democrats, even progressives, have rallied around a police reform bill which has no shot in the Senate. Democrats realize they are vulnerable on crime and are trying to pivot. The downside is the pivot can only go so far when it appears voters are holding them accountable as the party in charge.
Democrats in special elections have largely been buoyed by college educated voters turning out in droves which can win elections narrowly in low turnout affairs. But, in a midterm, where the issue set is more diverse and more voters will turn out it is not enough.
It appears Democrats are also realizing their vulnerability on focusing solely on abortion as voters also balance other issues and are also pivoting. Their problem: gas prices are rising, interest rates keep going up, the threat of a recession grows, and food prices are not dropping. Every time Democrats defend their economic record it rings hollow when voters, especially swing voters, look at the economic landscape and their budgets.
One poll is one poll. But it likely represents something most pollsters are missing. But it won’t be missed in November.