October 9, 2018
Following a standoff on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh that only widened the fissure between America’s two major political parties, likely voters who live in 69 battleground House districts nationwide narrowly prefer Democratic candidates, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School survey. That’s bad news for Republicans, given that the overwhelming percentage of these districts currently are in GOP hands, the Washington Post reported on October 8.
The survey of 3,407 registered voters—including 2,672 likely voters—by the Post and the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University found that, 50% of voters in these districts favor Democrats and 46% prefer Republicans. By way of comparison, in 2016 the same districts favored Republican candidates over Democrats by 15 percentage points—56% to 41 %.
With just a month to go before the mid-term elections and with early voting set to begin in many states, the new poll highlights the challenge for Republicans as they seek to maintain their House majority at a time when President Trump’s approval rating remains below 50%.
Women are driving Democratic support in the battleground districts, the Post reported—favoring the party’s candidates by 54% to 40%. Men in these districts favor Republicans by 51% to 46%. That gender difference continues a pattern that has been seen throughout the year in other polls and in special elections.
Democrats need to pick up a net of 23 seats to gain control of the House in November, which means they must win fewer than half of the battleground districts included in the new survey. The fact that, overall, voters in these districts are relatively evenly divided in territory that has been favorable for Republican House candidates in the past underscores why many GOP strategists are pessimistic about their prospects for holding the House.
The survey also highlights the growing split between white voters with college educations and those without a college degree—something that is especially acute among women, the Post noted. This educational divide has been growing since Trump was elected.
White voters overall, regardless of educational level, are divided almost evenly in the battleground districts, with 49% saying they support the Republican and 47 % saying they favor the Democrat. Among nonwhites, Democrats hold a big advantage—64% to 29%. In these battleground districts, nonwhites make up a smaller portion of the population than they do nationally.
Looked at on the basis of educational achievement, 55% of white college graduates say they favor the Democratic candidate in their district, compared with 42%t who say they back the GOP nominee. Among whites without college degrees, the numbers are almost the opposite, with 53% backing the Republican candidate and 42% supporting the Democrat.
The poll also asked respondents to rate eight issues—from “extremely important” to “very important” to “somewhat important” to “not so important.” The issue that drew the most “extremely important” rating, at 64%, was the Supreme Court and judicial nominations, the issue that dominated the news during the time the survey was conducted. Second in the “extremely important” ranking was President Trump himself, at 60%.
A 57% majority rated healthcare as extremely important, with 55% rating the economy as extremely important and 52% saying the same for immigration.
When pushed as to the single most important issue influencing their vote, a different order of significance emerged. In that case, Trump led the list, with 26% saying he was the most important of all the issues or factors, followed by the economy at 19% and the Supreme Court and other judicial nominations at 16%, the news outlet reported.
Research contact: @sfcpoll