Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup. Today’s theme song is “Fame” from the television show “Fame.

Poll of the week

A new CNN survey released this week showed Democrats leading Republicans by an astounding 56 percent to 38 percent on the generic congressional ballot. That’s an 18 percentage point lead among registered voters — a record-breaking result. No other survey taken in November or December in the year before a midterm has found the majority party in the House down by that much since at least the 1938 cycle (as far back as I have data).

And while the CNN poll is a bit of an outlier, the Democratic advantage in the FiveThirtyEight generic ballot aggregate is up to about 12 points, 49.6 percent to 37.4 percent. That average, like the CNN poll, also shows Republicans in worse shape right now than any other majority party at this point in the midterm cycle since at least the 1938 election.

House Republicans remain in a historically poor position

Average of generic congressional ballot polls in November and December in the year before the midterm election

No polls were available for the 1942 cycle.
*No November or December polls were available in these cycles. Instead, the final poll from October in the year before the midterm is used.

So Democrats are up a lot. A lot a lot. But how might a lead this big manifest itself in 2018?

First, Democrats are probably favorites to win the House. Their current advantage is larger than the lead Republicans had at this point in the 1994 cycle, the lead Democrats held at this point in the 2006 cycle or the lead Republicans had at this point in the 2010 cycle. Those were all years when the minority party won control of the House. And a 12 percentage point Democratic advantage in the national House vote come next November would likely be more than enough for the House to flip again. I’ve previously calculated that the Democrats need to win the national House vote by 5.5 to 8 points to win the House.

You can see in the chart below just how many Republican seats could potentially be in danger given the current climate. Let’s say only Republicans in seats with a partisan lean of more than 12 points in favor of Republicans are truly safe. (The idea being that Republicans would need that size of a cushion to withstand the Democrats’ 12-point edge on the generic congressional ballot.) For fun, let’s also look at how many seats have a Republican lean of less than or equal to +18 percentage points (as the CNN poll suggests are in play). Keep in mind that Democrats need to win 24 Republican-held seats to gain control of the House, assuming that Democrats don’t lose any of their own seats.

There are 58 Republicans in seats with a partisan lean of +12 points Republican or less. This includes representatives like House Speaker Paul Ryan and Dave Brat (who took out Eric Cantor in 2014). There are an astronomical 103 seats that have a partisan lean of +18 Republican or less. This expanded list includes the highest-ranking woman in the House, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and the longest-serving House member, Don Young.

Now, I’m not saying all or any of these particular Republicans will lose. Most incumbents win — even in wave elections. Indeed, incumbents tend to do better than the partisan lean of the district would suggest, though that effect has been getting smaller and is usually lessened in waves.

What I am saying, though, is that when the generic ballot is showing this large of a lead for one party, the playing field of competitive races also tends to be correspondingly huge. Consider the 2010 election, when Republicans won the national House vote by 7 percentage points. Heading into that election, there were 101 Democrat-held seats with a partisan lean of +7 Democratic or less. Republicans won 65 of them (or 64 percent).

We’re still nearly a year away from the midterm elections, however. And voter preferences at this point can change dramatically by election day; the average difference between the congressional ballot at this point and the final result is about 9 percentage points. But most large shifts on the generic ballot from this point onward have occurred against the party that holds the White House. Once you take into account who holds the White House, the generic ballot at this point is usually predictive of the midterm House result.

Indeed, so far this year, Democrats have more than doubled their April generic ballot lead of 5 percentage points. The Democrats led by just 6.9 points when they lost the Georgia 6 special election. That indicates that the normal midterm trends are holding even in the age of President Trump.

Other polling nuggets

Trump’s job approval rating

After hitting an all-time low last week, Trump’s job approval rating stabilized at 37 percent, with a disapproval rating of 57.2 percent. Two weeks ago, Trump’s approval rating was 37.3 percent, and his disapproval rating was 56.4 percent.

Filed under