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‘The Squad’ Probably Doesn’t Have To Worry About Primary Challengers

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

Four freshman Democratic congresswomen of color — sometimes referred to as “The Squad” — have gotten a disproportionate amount of attention in the newly Democratic House, and they have become Republicans’ new favorite bogey(wo)men as the GOP tries to frame Democrats as having moved too far to the left.

And while some recent polls suggest this may be a good national strategy for the Republicans, the quartet can probably rest easy at home — a separate survey found that the one congresswoman who is theoretically electorally vulnerable is still plenty popular in her district.

Last week, an Economist/YouGov poll tested the national popularity of each of the four congresswomen and found that they were polarizing figures, with each of them having a slightly higher unfavorable rating than favorable rating. Then, last weekend, Emerson College found even worse numbers for the four. For example, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had a -17 net favorability rating (30 percent approval rating minus a 47 percent disapproval rating) among registered voters after scoring just a -3 net favorability rating among registered voters in the Economist/YouGov poll. Rep. Ilhan Omar also had a -21 net favorability rating in the Emerson poll (-7 in the Economist/YouGov one). Rep. Rashida Tlaib had a -16 net favorability rating per Emerson and -5 per the Economist/YouGov. Finally, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, the least well-known of the four, had a -11 net favorability rating in the Emerson survey and a -4 net favorability rating in the Economist/YouGov one.

However, this doesn’t mean that any of them are in danger of losing reelection. All four sit in deeply Democratic seats with FiveThirtyEight partisan leans1 of D+52 or bluer. And among Democrats, their national net favorability ratings are excellent. Per Emerson, Ocasio-Cortez’s net favorability rating within the party is +37, Omar’s is +26, Tlaib’s is +31, and Pressley’s is +30.

That suggests that none of the four is particularly vulnerable to a primary challenger either — at least if Democrats in their districts are anything like Democrats nationally. And in fact, in Tlaib’s case, we actually have a recent poll that says she is even more popular among Democrats in her district. Last week, Target Insyght and MIRS News surveyed a possible Democratic primary in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District. Tlaib aced the test. The poll gave her a stellar +55 net favorability rating among Democratic voters in the district, who also approved of the job she was doing in Congress 76 percent to 14 percent. And in a head-to-head matchup with former Rep. Brenda Jones, whom Tlaib narrowly defeated in 2018’s six-way regular primary election,2 the poll gave Tlaib a 56 percent to 19 percent lead. Even in a three-way race including Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, Tlaib maintained almost as big a lead over the next closest candidate.

Of the four, Tlaib is probably the most vulnerable of any of the Squad members to a primary challenge. And that’s because she won her first primary just 31 percent to 30 percent over Jones in 2018 — which, as I wrote in April, fits the profile of other first-term representatives who went on to lose their next primaries. By contrast, both Ocasio-Cortez (57 percent) and Pressley (58 percent) won their first primaries with a majority of the vote, and Omar (48 percent, but still 18 points ahead of her closest challenger) wasn’t far behind.

So despite Trump’s frequent invectives against them and their starring roles in Republican attack ads, the Squad appears safe for reelection absent serious scandals or shockingly strong primary challengers.

Other polling bites

  • According to a new health care poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, support for a national “Medicare for All” plan has dipped from 56 percent in April to 51 percent in July. And more Democrats and Democratic leaners say we should build on the Affordable Care Act (55 percent) rather than replace it with Medicare for All (39 percent). Meanwhile, support for a public option is even more popular at 65 percent, including 85 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of Republicans.
  • Former special counsel Robert Mueller testified for more than six hours last Wednesday — all for no net change in public opinion. According to an ABC News/Ipsos poll, 27 percent of people who read, watched or heard about Mueller’s testimony became more likely to support Trump’s impeachment, and 26 percent became less likely. A 47 percent plurality said it made no difference.
  • Americans’ trust in technology companies has taken a big hit in recent years, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center. In 2015, 71 percent of adults thought tech companies had a positive effect on the way things were going in the U.S., and just 17 percent thought they had a negative effect. This month, just 50 percent said they thought the companies had a positive effect, and 33 percent said they thought the companies had a negative effect.
  • Last Wednesday, Boris Johnson officially became prime minister of the United Kingdom and pledged to do whatever it takes to achieve Brexit. That strong stance appears to be helping his Conservative Party regain support from the upstart Brexit Party. The latest YouGov poll of Britons’ parliamentary voting intentions finds the Conservatives with 32 percent, the Labour Party with 22 percent, the Liberal Democrats with 19 percent and the Brexit Party with 13 percent. The four parties were in a rough four-way tie a couple months ago.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 42.5 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 52.9 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -10.4 points). At this time last week, 42.7 percent approved and 53.2 percent disapproved (for a net approval rating of -10.5 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 42.2 percent and a disapproval rating of 52.9 percent, for a net approval rating of -10.7 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 6.1 percentage points (46.1 percent to 40.0 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 6.4 points (46.2 percent to 39.8 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 5.8 points (46.1 percent to 40.3 percent).

Check out all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the 2020 elections.



  1. FiveThirtyEight’s partisan lean metric is the average difference between how a state votes and how the country votes overall, with 2016 presidential election results weighted at 50 percent, 2012 presidential election results weighted at 25 percent and results from elections for the state legislature weighted at 25 percent. Note that the partisan leans in this article were calculated before the 2018 elections; we haven’t calculated FiveThirtyEight partisan leans that incorporate the midterm results yet.

  2. Although Jones did defeat Tlaib in a concurrent special primary election for the right to serve for the remainder of the 115th Congress.

Nathaniel Rakich is a senior editor and senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.