Voter enthusiasm at record high, giving Dems an edge

Voter enthusiasm at record high, giving Dems an edge
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More voters than ever say they are enthusiastic about voting in this year’s midterm elections, and those voters increasingly say both President TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand backs federal classification of third gender: report Former Carter pollster, Bannon ally Patrick Caddell dies at 68 Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN Ambassador job MORE and which party controls Congress will make a difference when they cast their ballots this year.

A new survey from the Pew Research Center shows 52 percent of voters say they will back a Democratic candidate for Congress this year, while 42 percent say they will support a Republican.

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That 10-point edge has doubled since Pew last asked, in June. It is on par with surveys from the Economist and YouGov, Fox News, NBC and the Wall Street Journal and Quinnipiac University, all of which show Democrats leading the generic ballot by the high single-digits or the low double-digits.

In the Pew survey, male voters favor Republicans by a three-point margin, while women favor Democrats by a 58 percent to 35 percent margin. Democrats lead among all age cohorts, though they hold only a three-point edge among voters over the age of 65, the generation that is most likely to show up at the polls.

Two-thirds of those who say they support a Democratic candidate also say they are more excited about voting than usual, a substantially higher percentage of Democrats who expressed enthusiasm ahead of the 2014 and 2010 midterms, and even before the 2006 midterms, when Democrats won back control of Congress.

Though Republicans have feared an enthusiasm gap might leave their voters at home on Election Day, those who say they favor the GOP are no less excited than usual. Fifty-nine percent of Republican voters say they are more enthusiastic about voting than they usually are, about the same number who expressed excitement ahead of the 2010 midterms, when Republicans won back control of the House.

“It’s a different midterm environment than we’ve seen in a while,” said Carroll Doherty, Pew’s director of political research. Enthusiasm is “pretty high on both sides.”

The survey shows evidence that the battle for control of Congress is becoming a national referendum on Trump, and whether Congress exerts more oversight over his administration or mostly goes along with his priorities.

Thirty-seven percent of voters said they think of their vote as a ballot cast against Trump, while 23 percent say their vote is meant to support him.

Trump’s approval rating in the Pew survey stands at 38 percent, a little below the 40 percent mark he notched in the June survey.

The opposition to Trump is higher than Republican opposition to former President Obama ahead of the 2010 or 2014 midterms, and about the same as the number of voters who said their ballots in 2006 were meant to rein in former President George W. Bush. The number of those who say they mean to support Trump with their midterm ballots is higher than it was for Bush, but slightly lower than for Obama in 2010.

And almost three-quarters of voters say control of Congress is a factor in their vote — a percentage far higher than in any midterm election going back to 1998.

“It is a more nationalized environment for sure,” Doherty said. “Twenty years ago, voters didn’t necessarily go into the voting booth with party control at the front and center of their minds, and 72 percent do now.”

More than eight in 10 of those planning to vote for a Democratic candidate say health care, the environment, control of the Supreme Court and the treatment of racial or ethnic minorities are very important to their votes.

Among Republican-leaning voters, the state of the economy is the only issue which more than eight in 10 voters said would be very important to their vote. About three-quarters cited terrorism as a very important factor, 72 percent cited Supreme Court appointments and 71 percent listed gun policies, taxes and immigration as top priorities.