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An Updated Look At The Race For The Senate

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll of the week

There’s been a flurry of polls released over the past two weeks in key U.S. Senate races, giving us a fresh picture of the electoral dynamics in that chamber less than five months ahead of the election. Remember, Republicans have a 51-49 majority and the vice presidency, so Democrats need to net two seats in November to take control. Let’s start with the polls we got among the 10 states where Trump won in 2016, but now have incumbent Democratic senators. Here’s what we’ve learned:

  • The Republicans look to be in real trouble in Ohio and Pennsylvania — Democratic Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Sherrod Brown of Ohio had double-digit leads in polls released last week. Brown’s margin, in particular, is a good sign for Democrats, since Trump won Ohio by 8 percentage points in 2016. Ohio has recently been a bit more Republican-leaning than the nation, so if Democrats can win comfortably there, it’s likely to be a good night for them overall come November. (Trump won Pennsylvania by less than 1 point.)
  • Montana, West Virginia and Wisconsin are looking good for Democrats, too — In Montana, incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester had a 51 percent to 44 percent lead over his GOP challenger, State Auditor Matt Rosendale, according to a Gravis Marketing poll from last week. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin had a 48-39 lead over state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, according to a Monmouth University survey released this week. And according to a new Marquette University Law School poll, Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin is ahead of her two most likely GOP challengers — Wisconsin’s primaries aren’t until Aug. 14. She had a 49-40 advantage over state Sen. Leah Vukmir, and a 50-39 lead over businessman Kevin Nicholson.
  • Democrats should be worried about their incumbents in Florida and North DakotaA Mason-Dixon poll released this week found Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota leading Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp 48 percent to 44 percent. In Florida, primaries don’t happen until August, but in a recent Politico/AARP survey, incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and his likely GOP challenger, Gov. Rick Scott, were basically tied, 39 percent to 40 percent. A Gravis Marketing survey released this week, on the other hand, showed Nelson ahead 50-40.

There’s still a lot that we don’t know about the Senate landscape. The number of polls we’ve had over the last couple of weeks counts as a flurry in June, but we won’t really start getting lots and lots of polls until the fall.

How are Democratic incumbents doing in Indiana, Michigan and Missouri, three other states that Trump carried in 2016? There haven’t been recent, non-partisan polls of those states’ Senate contests. Nor are there recent polls in Arizona, Nevada or Tennessee, the three GOP-held seats that surveys back in April suggested Democrats could win. Another state to watch, but where there has not been much polling is Minnesota, where Democrats have two incumbents (Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, Al Franken’s replacement). Trump lost there by only 2 percentage points in 2016.

Overall, the landscape is better for Democrats than it seemed at this time last year. But more recently, several things have broken the Republicans’ way. Republicans avoided nominating the controversial Don Blankenship in West Virginia. Scandal-plagued Eric Greitens resigned from the governorship in Missouri, removing a potential political problem for Missouri Attorney General and GOP U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who has brain cancer and has not been on Capitol Hill for months, opted not to resign. If he had stepped down by May 31, there would have been a special election this November for his seat. But now, if McCain’s seat is vacant (either because he dies or steps down from office), GOP Gov. Doug Ducey will appoint his replacement.

The Weekly Standard’s David Byler (a friend of our site) this week released an election model estimating that Democrats have a 31 percent chance of winning the Senate. FiveThirtyEight will have its own model, but I think Byler’s conclusion broadly lines up with what we know right now about the Senate dynamics.

Other Polling Nuggets

  • About two-thirds of Americans opposed separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to an average of polls. Democrats were almost unanimously opposed to the separations, but about half of Republicans supported them.
  • Asked by YouGov who was more responsible for the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families apprehended at the border, 48 percent of Republicans answered Democrats in Congress. Twenty-five percent said Trump, and 27 percent weren’t sure.
  • A Quinnipiac University poll found that a majority of Republicans believe Trump’s June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was a success for the U.S. A majority of Democrats believe it was a failure. Almost 80 percent of both Democrats and Republicans agree that the summit was a success for North Korea.
  • Voters are split on whether raising tariffs on Chinese exports to the U.S. will help or hurt the U.S. economy. According to a Morning Consult poll, 38 percent of registered voters believe the tariffs will help, while 42 percent believe they will hurt.
  • According to a Monmouth University poll, 52 percent of Americans say that free trade agreements with other countries are good for the U.S. That share has more than doubled since November 2015. The change represents a 23 percentage point increase among Republicans, a 33 point increase among Democrats, and a significant reduction in people who say they aren’t sure.
  • FiveThirtyEight teamed up with WNYC’s “Death, Sex & Money” podcast and SurveyMonkey to gauge the attitudes of American men about masculinity, workplace culture and intimacy, among other things. When asked about the advantages of being a man in the workplace, such as being taken more seriously or making more money, 59 percent of employed men suggested that there were no added benefits.
  • In a recent Fox News poll, 68 percent of registered voters said political correctness in the U.S. has gone too far. That includes 55 percent of Democrats and 83 percent of Republicans.
  • When asked about genetic testing, 60 percent of American adults said they would want to know if they carried a gene associated with an incurable disease; 39 percent said they would rather not know, in a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
  • The Pew Research Center asked more than 5,000 adults to identify 10 statements as either factual or opinion. A majority of Americans correctly identified three out of five statements in each category, which is only slightly better than random guesses. People who were more digitally savvy and politically aware fared better.
  • 70 percent of Canadian adults believe that when it comes to trade negotiations with the U.S., Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should stand up to Trump, according to a poll by Angus Reid. Only 30 percent said Trudeau should be careful not to offend Trump into hostile actions.

Trump approval

Is Trump’s approval rating surging because of his talks with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, which the public viewed positively, according to polls? Or is his popularity falling because of the attention around his administration’s now abandoned practice of separating children from their parents at the border? Or maybe they’re canceling each other out? Or maybe neither has affected Trump’s standing? Trump’s approval rating this week is 42.6 percent, while his disapproval is 51.3 percent — little changed from last week (42-52) or this time last month (42-53).

Generic ballot

Democrats have a 6.2 percentage-point advantage on the generic congressional ballot, compared with a 4-point advantage this time last month.

Perry Bacon Jr. is a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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

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