The “enthusiasm gap” between Democrats and Republicans for the 2022 midterm elections has closed, new polling finds, indicating that the race to control Congress is as tight as ever.
Enthusiasm, in election polling, measures the rate at which a group of people says they’re excited to vote in an upcoming race or races. Though not directly tied to turnout, the higher a political party’s enthusiasm, the more likely their supporters will appear at the polls to support their candidates on Election Day.
Polling has shown that Democrats and Republicans are neck-and-neck on the question posed to voters by various surveys over who they plan to support in their home district’s congressional race. More recently, Democrats have seen their numbers improve on that question — a recent Wall Street Journal poll, for example, shows that 47 percent of voters would pick a Democrat on their ballot, while 44 percent would choose a Republican. An aggregate of polling data collected by RealClearPolitics also shows that, on average and as of Wednesday morning, Democrats have a 0.5 percent lead over Republicans, a rate that suggests the two parties are in a statistical tie over who voters prefer to run Congress next term.
The current polls defy conventional wisdom about midterm elections — usually in the first midterm race after a new president is inaugurated the president’s party fares poorly, losing seats in the House of Representatives. So, Democrats would be expected to lose their narrow majority in the House, but polling data so far suggests that might not happen, or, if it does, it will not be the significant “red wave” Republicans have been predicting would occur.
But in terms of enthusiasm, the Republican Party has mostly been ahead of Democrats when it comes to which voters are most excited to vote this fall.
According to recent Politico/Morning Consult data, that gap has shrunk, and the two parties are now virtually tied on that measure as well.
On the question of enthusiasm, 56 percent of voters who tend to support Democrats say they are “extremely” or “very” enthusiastic to vote this fall, while 57 percent of Republican voters say the same. The two measures are within the poll’s margin of error, which means the parties are technically tied on the question.
The new numbers are significant because there have been wide gaps between the two parties over the past year. The 1-point gap now is much smaller than the 9-point gap that existed in late July, for example, when the poll found that 61 percent of Republican voters were at those levels of enthusiasm to vote in November versus just 52 percent of Democratic voters. In April, the gap between the parties was even wider, with Republicans having a 13-point lead over Democrats.
The Politico/Morning Consult poll published this week also found that Democrats are maintaining their lead on the generic ballot question. Forty-eight percent of voters say they plan to pick a Democrat to represent them in Congress, while 44 percent say their choice is the Republican candidate in their home district.
According to an analysis from Morning Consult on its poll, Democrats are seeing their enthusiasm numbers go up due to the Supreme Court’s decision to eradicate abortion protections — and states imposing new abortion restrictions or bans — as well as economic numbers plateauing following inflationary increases earlier this year.
“Democratic enthusiasm for voting in the midterm elections has generally been on the upswing since late spring, but surveys conducted throughout the year show that excitement on the left surged after the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade,” wrote Morning Consult’s Eli Yokley.
“While the average voter is still more likely to hear negative news about the economy, positive perceptions about it have improved significantly in recent months amid solid jobs reports and, perhaps most notably, falling consumer gasoline costs,” Yokley added.