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Is The Ebola Crisis Affecting The Midterm Elections?

Politico reported on Monday that Democrats are in danger in November’s midterm elections — because of Ebola. According to a Politico poll, Republican-leaning voters have less confidence than Democratic-leaning voters in the government’s response to the Ebola crisis.


I have little doubt about the poll’s finding, but Politico’s interpretation is backwards. Some Americans might vote differently because of the Ebola outbreak and the government’s response to it, but the fact that Republican voters distrust the federal government isn’t evidence of that. Ebola isn’t making people more likely to vote Republican. Rather, Republicans are more likely to have less confidence in the government while a Democrat occupies the White House.

You can see that in this chart from Gallup about trust on domestic issues.


Note that during the George W. Bush administration, Democrats had a lot less trust than Republicans in the federal government on domestic issues. That switched the year President Obama was elected. Then it was Republicans who had a lot less trust in the federal government.

The same holds true on international issues.


Indeed, more people have confidence in the government now than they did during the bird flu scare in 2005. And about the same percentage are worried about Ebola as were worried about the swine flu in 2009.

We haven’t seen any evidence yet that Ebola has had a substantial effect on the midterm elections. Republican chances of taking the Senate have crept up over the past few days, to 65 percent in FiveThirtyEight’s latest Senate forecast. But the forecast is still within the range it has been all year.

Harry Enten was a senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight.