Briefing

Midterm polls: The race for the House and Senate

Nov. 8 is going to be a nailbiter no matter which side you're on

With only one day to go until the midterm elections, polls are starting to show a shift from some of the earlier predictions about the upcoming congressional races.

Will Democrats be able to hold onto control against uphill odds? Or will Republicans succeed in stymying President Biden's agenda ahead of the 2024 presidential election? Here is everything you need to know about the state of the upcoming races for the House and Senate:

The latest

Recent polling data indicate that midterm prediction needles are moving back in Republicans' favor in both congressional races. The boost of enthusiasm that Democrats received after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade was short-lived, and voters have grown increasingly concerned about the economy in the weeks ahead of the Nov. 8 election. Republicans continue to benefit from their stances on that issue, and inflation, the top two concerns for voters per recent polls.

Overall, voters appear to be leaning toward favoring Republicans for control of Congress. RealClearPolitics' polling average for the generic congressional ballot has Republicans with a 2.5-point lead. Other recent surveys also leaned toward the GOP, with the RCP average being 47.9 percent to 45.4. FiveThirtyEight reports that Democrats led by 1.1 percent in their generic congressional ballot polling average as recently as Oct. 13; however, their most recent average has Republicans with a 1.1-point lead, indicating that the political atmosphere has flipped back to favoring the GOP. 

The latest data from The Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that 50 percent of voters would vote for a Republican candidate for Congress, and 48 percent would vote for a Democrat.

The race for the House

Republicans have a growing lead

Based on the direction poll data trends have moved, both FiveThirtyEight and The Economist's forecasts maintain that a Republican takeover of the House is likely. The Democrats have always faced an uphill battle in trying to remain in control of Congress, as it is typical for the president's party to lose seats during the midterm elections, per The Economist

Poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight has updated its House race forecast to "Republicans favored to win," as the gap between the two parties has increased over the past few weeks. FiveThirtyEight predicts Republicans will have an 84 percent chance of winning the House, over Democrats' mere 16 percent.

Republican candidates are being bolstered by their stances on the economy, inflation, and crime, per a Washington Post-ABC News poll. However, the GOP's early lead began to suffer after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade (1973), the landmark decision that had federally guaranteed the right to abortion. FiveThirtyEight reports that Democrats slowly gained on Republicans in polls after that controversial decision; however, recent developments have shifted back in the GOP's favor. 

Registered voters are split almost evenly on who they want to vote for in the 2022 House races, with 47 percent planning to vote Republican and 46 percent keen on the Democrats, The Washington Post reports. But despite improvements in congressional polls for Democrats, overall results still predict they will lose the House majority. 

Anger helped Democrats win in 2018 — but Republicans don't have that lead this year

Morning Consult reports that voter anger helped the Democrats win the House in 2018. Their most recent annual State of the Parties report found that "Republicans hold no such advantage over their Democratic rivals on this key metric about the electorate's mood." 

Currently, registered Democratic voters have a 1 percent lead over Republicans when asked if anger appropriately describes how they feel going into the midterms. Compared to how Republicans felt in the 2018 season, fewer Democrats are hopeful about the upcoming election, with 56 percent compared to the 74 percent Republicans felt in 2018. 

Morning Consult cites political science research that shows anger is "a proven motivator to get voters to show up at the polls — even more so than other gauges of anxiety or motivation." Their analysts explained that the Democrats had seen a surge in voter enthusiasm after the Roe decision, but that energy seems to be tapering off. The political atmosphere could potentially provide Republicans an advantage going forward, as "there's a good chance new events could enrage conservatives." Such events might include the future outcomes of the ongoing court cases involving former President Donald Trump. 

The race for the Senate

Democrats still have a shot at holding control, but the race is getting tighter

In early October, Democrats managed to pull into a slight lead over Republicans in the Senate race. The Economist and FiveThirtyEight both forecasted at the time that the Democrats had a chance at maintaining their control over the Senate. In the publications' latest forecasts, though, the race has gotten tighter. FiveThirtyEight now predicts the Democrats have a 50 percent chance of holding the House, down from 68 percent, while the Economist has Republicans in the lead with a 51 percent chance. 

Concerns about the economy and immigration are fueling the Republican surge

The New York Times' chief political analyst Nate Cohn predicted the turnaround for Republicans in the final weeks leading up to the midterm elections by using Google search trends. While he recognized that Democrat's polling seemed to be on an upswing following the Jan. 6 hearings, the abortion debate, and decreasing gas prices, Cohn noticed that interest in issues that are advantageous for Democratic candidates has been waning.

"For the first time since the Dobbs ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, Google searches for the economy and immigration have overtaken searches about abortion," Cohn explains. "Searches for democracy or the Jan. 6 hearings have also fallen." 

Do voters want Republicans or Democrats in Congress?

According to FiveThirtyEight's generic congressional ballot estimates, voters are essentially split, with Republicans getting 46.7 percent and Democrats getting 45.5 percent as of Nov. 6. Morning Consult's midterm tracker shows Democrats and Republicans tied 46 percent to 46 percent in generic congressional polls on Nov. 1 (down from Democrats' all-time-high advantage of 49 percent in late September).

In contrast, Real Clear Politics' congressional polling average sees Republicans ahead of the Democrats, 47.9 percent to 45.4, with a spike in national polls favoring Republicans as of late. 

Inflation is now tied with threats to democracy on the list of important issues, per a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2. The economy overall, and abortion rights top the list. Republicans have a 14-point lead among registered voters who trust them to handle the economy and a 12-point edge on trust to manage inflation. Yet Democrats have held with a 17-point lead on confidence to handle abortion, and a three-point lead on confidence to deal with threats to democracy.

What do the polls say about the standings of the key races in November?

  • Ohio: A Trafalgar Group poll of Ohio voters conducted between Nov. 3 and Nov. 5 shows, shows J.D. Vance (R) 10 points ahead of opponent Rep. Tim Ryan (D).  Vance is polling at 54 percent, and Ryan is at 44 percent. The poll surveyed 1,123 likely voters and had a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percent. 
  • Georgia: While the RCP poll average for the state no longer favors Democrats, they project that Georgia is still a potential pick-up for either party. Fox 5/InsiderAdvantage polls conducted on Nov. 6  show Herschel Walker (R) at 49 percent, beating incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock's (D) 47 percent. The poll surveyed 550 likely voters in Georgia, with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percent.
  • Pennsylvania: The latest Fox 29/InsiderAdvantage poll reports that Mehmet Oz (R) has pulled into a slight lead against Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), by a 48 percent to 46 percent margin. They surveyed 750 likely voters in the state on Nov. 3, and the margin of error was +/- 3.58 percent. 
  • Arizona: Polls continue to favor a Democrat win in the Senate race in Arizona. The latest Marist Poll has incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D) with a 3-point lead at 50 percent over ​​Blake Masters' (R) 47 percent. They surveyed 1,015 likely voters in the state from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, and the margin of error was +/- 4.3 percentage points.
  • Nevada: Nevada voters are starting to favor the Democratic candidate in their Senate race, but the election remains close, with voters almost split between the candidates. The Nevada Independent/OH Predictive Insights polls put Adam Laxalt (R) at 41 percent behind defending Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) at 43 percent, with a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

Update Nov. 7: This post has been updated throughout to reflect the latest poll numbers.

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