The “Generic Congressional Ballot” is moving inarguably toward Democrats in recent weeks, another sign that the 2022 midterm elections might not be as favorable for Republicans as once thought.
The GCB has long been a closely-watched metric in any election for trying to understand how support for Democrats or Republicans is changing over time. If you’re unfamiliar with the GCB, it’s a response to a question such as this: “If the election for U.S. Congress were being held today, who would you vote for in the district where you live?” The available answers are usually “The Democratic Candidate” or “The Republican Candidate,” with no names provided; the point is to gauge whether voters are generally feeling more positive about Democrats or Republicans in an upcoming election.
According to a new Economist/YouGov poll released this week, the GCB now gives Democrats a 6-point advantage over Republicans. A new Fox News poll has Democrats and Republicans polling even at 41%, but it’s the trend line that is important; in May, Fox News had Republicans with a 46-39 advantage (click here for a compilation of GCB results via RealClearPolitics).
It’s instructive to see how much the overall political mood in this country has moved toward Democrats over the summer. There are a number of factors at play here, from the overturning of Roe v. Wade to a recent flurry of legislation passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate in support of President Biden’s agenda.
You can see this at play locally as well. Colorado Republicans are plainly terrified at what the abortion rights issue will mean for their candidates in November. Candidates for federal office, such as U.S. Senate hopeful Joe O’Dea, are finding it impossible to escape from the corner in which they have painted themselves after high-profile Congressional victories for Democrats.
This trend could still change before November, of course, but as we enter the most important stretch of the campaign cycle, the momentum is definitely on the side of Democrats.
I believe with the latest redistricting, Dems need about a 7 point advantage on the generic poll to be favored to win the House majority.
In other years, generic ballot polls have provided about a 3% or 4% “cushion” for Republicans. A 5% lean for Democrats preceded a gain of a few seats; a 5% lean for Republicans preceded a 25-30 gain of seats.
I just updated my analysis of a list of Generic Ballot polls from Real Clear Politics, grabbing all 39 in the field after June 24, when the Dobbs decision was announced. the current lean is Republican by 0.49%. In 18 polls, Republicans lead; in 17, Democrats lead; in 4 they are tied.
However, there is a clear split between polls of Registered and Likely voters. 13 “Likely” polls have Republicans up 4.61%. “Registered” polls have Democrats up 3.40%. I think this year, more than others, the screens used by polling firms (whether created by asking about enthusiasm or plans to vote OR modeling based on previous elections) are unreliable. If I’m guessing correctly, the election is going to turn on people’s enthusiasm for turning out. And enthusiasm is going to be based more on what is happening in October much more than what is happening now.
This is why we pay more attention to the trend over time than an individual poll.