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The State Of Senate Democrats In Trumpland Is …

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll of the week

Democratic prospects to win the House in 2018 look strong, in part because many incumbent House Republicans are in liberal-leaning states like California and New York. But the Senate has always been harder for Democrats; 10 of the party’s incumbent senators are up for re-election in states that President Trump won in 2016. There is a considerable possibility that Democrats, who currently hold 49 seats, could flip Arizona and Nevada but still not win control of the Senate because of losses by Democratic incumbents in heavily Republican states like Indiana.

So how are those Democrats doing? According to two polls released this week, the state of Senate Democrats in Trumpland is … so-so.

In Florida, a new Quinnipiac poll has the Democrat, Sen. Bill Nelson, ahead of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who has not formally declared his candidacy for the Senate race but is widely expected to run. Nelson’s lead is 46 percent to 42 percent. (The Florida survey was conducted amid the debate in the Sunshine State about potential policy changes in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which could affect the results in unpredictable ways.) In North Dakota, a Gravis Marketing survey shows Democrat Heidi Heitkamp leading the GOP candidate, U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, 43 percent to 40 percent. (Cramer has been embraced by GOP leaders, and other Republican challengers withdrew from the race after Cramer declared.)

Those two Democratic incumbents are both ahead. But those are very narrow margins, and it’s very early. The safest bet: These races are likely to be competitive, and Democrats could lose either or both of them.

Our preference would be to look at how other red-state Democrats are doing for clues about their prospects as a group. Senate races, particularly in states that are similar politically or demographically, tend to be somewhat correlated. In other words, don’t be surprised if the same party wins Missouri and Indiana, or Nevada and Arizona. But it’s hard to assess the broader picture for red-state Democrats because there haven’t been many polls in the other eight races. Still, the core dynamic in those contests is the same as in Florida and North Dakota: Trump is unpopular overall, and the president’s party generally loses seats in the House and Senate during midterm elections. Is that dynamic enough for Democrats to win in states that are broadly conservative?

Other polling nuggets

  • In a televised meeting Wednesday in the White House, Trump floated multiple gun policy proposals, including arming teachers and raising the minimum age for purchasing certain types of guns to 21. Several polls show that Americans are split along party lines on policies that involve arming teachers.
  • Raising the age limit on gun purchases to 21, however, seems to get broader support. YouGov and CNN both found that more than 70 percent of Americans — including more than 60 percent of Republicans — support the idea. Some retailers, including Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Kroger, have already changed their policies.
  • A poll by Morning Consult taken this past weekend asked respondents to rate certain companies before and after being informed that the company had ended its relationship with the National Rifle Association. Overall, net favorability declined after the information was presented, although it increased among Democrats.
  • A YouGov poll found that the share of people who have an unfavorable view of the NRA rose from 39 percent last week to 45 percent this week.
  • 57 percent of Americans who responded to an Associated Press poll this month said they thought Trump was racist, including 84 percent of African-Americans and almost half of whites.
  • In another AP poll, 77 percent of respondents said weddings are too expensive these days. Shocker! Almost 6-in-10 Americans said social media had made planning a wedding more stressful. Additionally, 22 percent of Americans said they had attended a wedding with its own hashtag. #ModernWeddings #WeddingPolls
  • A poll from Southern Illinois University of registered voters in Illinois showed incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner trailing Democrats J.B. Pritzker and Daniel Biss by 15 and 14 percentage points, respectively, in hypothetical general election matchups. Illinois will hold its primary election in less than three weeks, on March 20.
  • Texas will hold its primary elections this Tuesday. A University of Texas/Texas Tribune survey of registered voters in the state showed Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Greg Abbott, both Republicans, winning their primary races handily. The poll also shows U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke as the front-runner in the Democratic Senate primary. Other than a poll from April (of last year!) and an internal poll from the Cruz campaign, there isn’t much polling data yet on whether O’Rourke will pose a serious threat to Cruz.
  • The Seton Hall University Sports Poll found that, among people who expressed interest in the Winter Olympics in South Korea this year, 54 percent watched the games on NBC in primetime more than in other ways, while 17 percent said they watched streaming coverage on handheld devices.
  • If you are planning an Oscars party and have meticulously parsed the FiveThirtyEight Oscar predictions, you may be among the 18 percent of people who told YouGov that they follow the Academy Awards either “very closely” or “fairly closely.” Twenty-four percent said “not too closely,” and 59 percent said “not at all closely.”
  • South Koreans’ belief that hard work pays off is declining, according to a Gallup poll. For the first time since 2010, the poll found that more South Koreans do not believe that people in their country can get ahead by working hard than those who do. In 2010, 3 in 4 believed that hard work paid off, but now only about half do.
  • Italy will go to the polls Sunday to elect a new parliament. The Wall Street Journal reports that the final opinion polls published in mid-February (opinion polls are not allowed in the last two weeks before the vote) showed very high uncertainty, with as much as 30 percent of the electorate still undecided.

Trump’s approval rating

Trump’s job approval rating is at 40.6 percent, while his disapproval rating is at 54.1 percent. Last week, his approval rating was 40.6 percent, compared with a disapproval rating of 53.9 percent.

The generic ballot

The Democrats hold a 46.4 percent to 38.4 percent advantage on the generic congressional ballot this week. Last week, Democrats were up 47.5 percent to 38.7 percent.

Perry Bacon Jr. is a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.

Dhrumil Mehta is a database journalist at FiveThirtyEight focusing on politics.