Polling data from numerous surveys on the 2022 midterm elections shows that some polls favor Democrats while others predict a Republican victory.
Nate Cohn, The New York Times’s chief political analyst, submitted his final thoughts on the midterms before Election Day in his column published on Monday. The outcome could range from “a fairly close race for the House to something like a Republican rout,” he noted.
So many races are within the polls’ margins of error that “it wouldn’t take much for the final outcome to feel very good, or very bad, for either party,” Cohn added.
Cohn suggested that Americans brace themselves for one of four scenarios.
In one scenario, Republicans could secure a “clear” win, winning both houses of Congress despite several races being close, Cohn said.
A second possibility is that Democrats will have what Cohn calls a “feels-like-a-win” outcome, meaning that the party could lose control of the House but still hold onto enough seats in the Senate to maintain control of that chamber. Such an outcome would benefit Democrats in a big way: even if they can’t pass legislation without getting the House’s approval, the Senate could still approve of cabinet members or judges nominated by President Joe Biden over the next two years.
In a third scenario, which Cohn calls the GOP “landslide” outcome, there would be a “red wave” victory for Republicans, who would win decisively in both the Senate and the House. This outcome is unlikely, as is the fourth scenario, which Cohn describes as a “Democratic surprise,” wherein the polls are similarly wrong and Democrats, not Republicans, retain control of both chambers.
“Democrats are still within striking distance of a good night. Unlike in previous cycles, they remain competitive in enough races to win,” Cohn explained.
Cohn doesn’t say which of the four possibilities he believes will happen, but he does advise that there will be early signs to watch out for as election returns pour in. Strong Democratic showings early on in senatorial races in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, for example, hint at better results for Democrats overall.
“If Democrats remain highly competitive in all three or even win one” before the night is over, Cohn explained, “it will be a clear sign that this isn’t the simple Republican win that analysts long expected.”
Most polls show statistical ties for control of the House, according to data compiled by RealClearPolitics. The latest NBC News poll, for example, shows a 1-point margin of victory for Democrats nationally, while an ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Republicans ahead by two points.
A Rasmussen Reports poll has the GOP ahead by five points, while a Politico/Morning Consult poll indicates that it’s Democrats who are ahead by that margin.
Notably, only the NBC News poll was conducted during the month of November — the rest of the polls cited above were conducted in late October, at least in part.
The closeness of the election may be exacerbating election workers’ and state officials’ fears about the potential for violence and false claims of election fraud by far right candidates. In many places, the final result won’t be tallied until late into the evening or even days later due to a high rate of absentee ballots that will be counted after the polls close.
The same phenomenon occurred in the 2020 presidential election. Early returns that year suggested to supporters of former President Donald Trump that he had won the race against now-President Joe Biden. However, after the absentee ballots were counted, Trump’s margin of victory shrank in many states and, eventually, disappeared.
Trump wrongly claimed that he had won the election and that the counting of those ballots after polls closed was evidence of fraud. His continued denial of the legitimate election results fanned the flames of election denial among his loyalists, culminating in their January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol building following an incendiary Trump speech urging his followers to go to Congress to express their unfounded grievances in person.
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