CNN Poll: Democrats' midterm advantage holds among likely voters

Democrats maintain a wide lead over Republicans in the race for control of the House of Representatives, a n...

Posted: Sep. 14, 2018 3:20 AM
Updated: Sep. 14, 2018 3:20 AM

Democrats maintain a wide lead over Republicans in the race for control of the House of Representatives, a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS finds, including a 10-point lead among those most likely to turn out this November.

In a generic ballot test, 52% of likely voters back the Democratic candidate for House of Representatives in their district while 42% back the Republican. Among all registered voters, Democrats hold a 12-point margin over the GOP, suggesting preferences have not shifted much since an August CNN Poll, which did not include an assessment of likely voters.

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RELATED: Full poll results.

The new poll marks the first time this election season CNN has looked at preferences among likely voters. Typically, likely voters in midterm elections are a bit more Republican-leaning than the broader pool of registered voters. This year, Democrats are expressing just as much interest in voting as Republicans, and voters who are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents continue to be more enthusiastic about casting a ballot for Congress than those who tilt toward the GOP (56% are extremely or very enthusiastic vs. 50% of Republican voters).

The results of the poll suggest a midterm environment that is looking a lot like 2006, when Democrats took control of the House amid widespread voter dissatisfaction with Republican president George W. Bush and his handling of the war in Iraq. In 2010, backlash to President Barack Obama and the passage of Obamacare led to the organization of the ideological Tea Party movement, which boosted Republicans back into control of the House. In September of 2006, CNN polling also found Democrats with a 10-point lead over Republicans on the generic ballot.

The President is a negative motivator for a majority of voters, according to the poll, with 54% saying they would be more apt to support a candidate who opposes President Trump. About a third (36%) say they're partial to supporting a candidate who backs the President. Those figures have shifted against Trump since the question was last asked in May (48% said they'd prefer an anti-Trump candidate in that poll, 43% a pro-Trump one).

Views of the President are closely tied to preferences in the House ballot: Among those likely voters who approve of the way the President is handling his job, 89% plan to back the Republican in their district, while 87% of those who disapprove favor the Democrat.

And more Americans say the country would be better off (40%) than worse off (28%) should Democrats take control of Congress in this November's elections. That's a wider margin that felt the nation would be better off should Republicans take control back in 2010. Only about a quarter now (27%) say it doesn't make a difference, fewer than felt that way in 2014 or 2010, suggesting voters see this year's contest as more consequential.

The results come as multiple polls show similar shifts in the Democrats' favor in the dynamics of the midterm race. It is the third poll released in the past two days to show Democrats with a double-digit lead over Republicans on a generic ballot question.

The poll shows Democrats with a huge advantage among women likely voters, 60% say they back the Democrat in their district compared with 36% for the Republican. Among men, Republicans hold a slim 5-point edge. And as in 2016, education is a sharp divider among white voters. Those without college degrees broadly back the Republican (57% for the Republican to 38% for the Democrat) while those who hold four-year degrees favor the Democrat by a similar margin (59% to 37%).

Voters on both sides of the battle for the House say they are largely casting votes to support their candidate rather than to make a stand against their opponent. About 6 in 10 voters who choose the Democrat in their district say they are doing so more to vote for the Democrat than against the Republican. Likewise, 60% of Republican backers say they're casting a supportive vote for the GOP more than one against the Democrats.

Diverse Candidates

As this year's primary season comes to a close, the slate of candidates chosen includes a diversity of backgrounds not often seen in American politics. With a record number of female candidates on major party tickets for Congress and groundbreaking candidates from racial, ethnic and religious minorities landing on ballots across the country, many Americans are now choosing among candidates who resemble them for the first time. The new poll finds a majority of Americans feel it is extremely or very important for Congress to represent the country's demographic makeup (62% say so), about the same share who say it's that important for Congress to represent the nation's political makeup in partisanship and ideology (63%). More, 67%, say it's critical for Congress to represent the nation's economic diversity.

Women (69%) and non-whites (70%) are more apt than men or whites to consider a demographically-representative Congress deeply important. Democrats (82%) say it's more important than Republicans (44%). Democrats are also more likely than Republicans to say it's important for Congress to represent the nation's political makeup in terms of partisanship and ideology (76% among Democrats to 55% among Republicans). The economic makeup of Congress is also important to Democrats, who say Congress should represent the country in terms of income and education (78% among Democrats to 59% among Republicans).

Looking Ahead to 2020 Democrats

And looking ahead to the next major election to come -- the presidential nominating contests -- the Democrats who are among the top contenders for their party's presidential nomination are generally viewed more favorably than unfavorably by their partisans. But outside of the very top tier of candidates, many potential presidential hopefuls are widely unknown.

Former Vice President Joe Biden earns near universal positive reviews among his partisans, 86% have a favorable opinion. Bernie Sanders, who finished second to Hillary Clinton in 2016, isn't far behind with 78% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents holding positive views of him. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren also earns majority-positive ratings among the Democratic electorate at 57% favorability.

Majorities of the Democratic electorate are unsure, however, about Cory Booker (53%), Kamala Harris (55%) and Deval Patrick (84%). Among those who do have an opinion about each of them, the reviews are largely positive.

The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS September 6 through 9 among a random national sample of 1,003 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points, for the subset of 923 registered voters, it is plus or minus 3.9 and for the 775 likely voters plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

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