Low Turnout Will Damage the Dems Says New Poll
Policy + Politics

Low Turnout Will Damage the Dems Says New Poll

Every election has its idiosyncrasies and complicating outside factors, but sometimes the results come down to the same factors cycle after cycle. Right now, it looks more likely than not that Democrats will lose control of the Senate in November. The biggest reason is that, as a party, the Democrats don’t get voters to the polls for the midterms as well as the GOP does.

A new poll from The Wall Street Journal and NBC News shows that a plurality of voters, by a margin of 46 percent to 42 percent, would prefer to see Democrats in control of Congress. But when the sample is limited to those considered “likely voters,” the numbers flip – with Republicans preferred by a plurality of 46 percent to 42 percent. 

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The Republican advantage, even among likely voters, remains within the smaller sample’s 3.8 percent margin of error, to be sure. However, the GOP has historically held an edge when it comes to getting voters to the polls in off-year elections. 

Yet there are factors that make it less clear just how sure the GOP’s path to victory is. When voters were given only a choice between the Republicans and Democrats for control of Congress, Democrats won among registered voters but lost among likely voters. However, when voters were asked what party they prefer in their own congressional district, including the Libertarian Party and the Green Party, Democrats topped Republicans not only among registered voters (43-36) but among likely voters as well (41-39). 

The main reason for the difference? It seems to be that Libertarians are taking a substantial chunk of voters away from GOP candidates. When voters who chose the Libertarian or Green party were asked to vote as if the Democrats and Republicans were the only options, those likely to vote favored Republicans 46 percent to 28 percent. 

This makes it unclear just how strong an advantage Republicans really have in races where they’re faced with a full slate of third-party candidates. 

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Frankly, looking at the rest of the survey’s data, it might be considered surprising that anybody wants to come to the voting booths at all. Congress has an 83 percent disapproval rating and only a 12 percent approval rating. Both major political parties are also underwater when it comes to public opinion, with Democrats seen positively by 37 percent of voters and negatively by 43 percent, and Republicans mired at 27 percent positive and 50 percent negative. 

Overall, 65 percent of voters say the country is “on the wrong track.” 

Meanwhile, President Obama, whose legendary get-out-the-vote efforts in the 2008 and 2012 elections drove millions of new voters to the polls, is clearly damaged goods. The WSJ/NBC poll finds his overall job approval/disapproval percentages at a lackluster 42/52. And when asked about specific policy areas, voters were no happier. On his handling of the economy, 43 percent approved his performance and 53 percent disapproved. His foreign policy numbers are worst of all, at 31/61. 

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