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New Poll Shows Democrats Barely Ahead of Republicans in 2022 Midterms

Polling has trended more positively for Democrats over the past few weeks.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer talk during a rally organized by the “Paid Leave for All” cross-country bus tour on August 4, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

A new poll demonstrates that previous projections of the 2022 midterm elections may have been premature in concluding that Republicans will likely win control of Congress later this year.

A USA Today/Suffolk University poll, conducted from December 27-30, asked respondents who they preferred to win in November’s federal elections. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they wanted Republicans to be in control of Congress next year, while 39 percent said they preferred that Democrats retain control.

That 2-point margin is a 10-point swing from what that same poll found in November of last year, when Republicans led Democrats by 8 points in the generic ballot question.

The poll has a 3.1 point margin of error, which means it’s a statistical tie in terms of who Americans think should run Congress.

There is always a possibility that the poll is a misnomer, an outlier whose findings are not consistent with reality. But the USA Today/Suffolk University poll isn’t the only survey that’s revealed a shift over the past month.

According to an aggregate of polling data collected by RealClearPolitics that tracks the generic congressional ballot question, Republicans had a lead of 3.1 points over Democrats, on average, as of December 1. As of January 4, that lead has shrunk to an average of just 1.1 points.

Democrats are hopeful they can defy historical odds and win the midterms, maintaining control of Congress in the process. Generally speaking, it is typical for the political party of a newly-elected president to lose seats in the first midterm contest of the new chief executive’s tenure. With Democrats in control of the House of Representatives by only five seats — and holding onto a tie-breaking vote-lead in the Senate — any net loss will likely result in their forfeiting control to Republicans.

Gerrymandering in Republican-controlled states across the country could also tip the scales against Democrats. According to one analysis, even if voting patterns remain unchanged from 2020, Republicans would still win in 2022 due to how unfairly they redrew congressional maps.

However, Democrats are hopeful that they can pass voting rights legislation to stop other voter suppression efforts by Republicans in time for the midterm elections. Advocates have also pointed out that canceling student debt loans and expanding the social safety net through the Build Back Better package may further increase Democrats’ chances with voters.

Indeed, when the House passed a version of the Build Back Better bill on its own, Biden’s polling numbers went up; they went back down after conservative Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (West Virginia) said he wouldn’t support the bill, dooming its chances in the Senate. Finding a way to pass the bill through both houses of Congress so that Biden can sign it into law could translate into higher positivity ratings for Democrats going forward.