Despite the headlines about an eight-point advantage for Democrats in the generic congressional ballot, the detailed results of today’s Washington Post/ABC News poll should make most Democratic Party leaders and their billionaire benefactors sweat.
First, the eight-point gap represents a five-point drop from the same poll just three weeks ago, when Democrats had a 13-point advantage. (Like most polls, the sample favors Democrats by six points among registered voters.)
But even more ominous for Democrats is how specific voting blocs responded. If Democrats are going to win control of the House, they need to pull votes from independent women and women in the suburbs, and support for the generic Democratic congressional candidate has dropped significantly among these two groups. Independent women now are split between Republicans and Democrats; this is a seismic shift from the results of its October poll, which gave Democrats a 33-point lead in this group. Further, Democratic women appear less likely to vote than Democratic men, Republican men, and Republican women.
Suburban women now favor a Democratic candidate by 11-points, a lead that’s been cut in half since last month. Since many of the Republican toss-ups and “lean Democratic” seats are located in suburban areas, this could portend trouble for Democrats. At the same time, the GOP has made big gains among non-college white men and rural residents.
The top two issues—health care and the economy—cut both ways for each party. Registered voters trust Democrats to handle health care, but trust Republicans to handle the economy. Voters prefer Republicans to handle taxes, while they prefer Democrats to handle immigration and global warming.
But one issue stands out: border security. Amazingly, the pollsters admit it’s the first time they’ve asked about border security, and 59 percent of registered voters said it is an important issue in the election. Eighty-four percent of Republicans and 47 percent of Democrats ranked border security as a key issue; independents were evenly split. Republicans have a ten-point lead over Democrats on the question of who will better handle border security, and a 19-point lead among independents. (Anyone who reads Rachel Bovard won’t be surprised by this.)
The biggest headwind for the GOP remains Donald Trump. Fifty-two percent of registered voters disapprove of how he’s handling his job as president versus 44 percent who approve. (This is his highest approval rating in the history of this poll.) But the president is at a 16-point deficit among independents.
On Tuesday, all eyes will be on the more than two dozen toss-up House races. It’s here where Democrats don’t appear to have the strong advantage they need to win several of these contests that will take them over the top. The poll shows a slim preference for Democrats—49-44 percent—in these toss-up districts; considering the margin of error in the poll (3.5 percent), it’s essentially a tie.
Pundits usually look at trends close to Election Day to predict the final outcome. If this poll is any indication of what to expect on Tuesday night, Democrats might be in for a big disappointment.