Republicans have a lead. But it keeps shrinking.
While they are still in a very good position to win a majority in the House, that majority looks narrower than ever today, having fallen to 223 seats in our model estimate for the second month running. There were 226 Republicans in August and 230 in July.
Voters are biased because they think the stakes are so high — for many more than just the impact on their wallets.
Two-thirds of voters believe their rights and freedoms are at high risk in this election – even more than they would say their financial well-being is.
And each party believes that if the opposition gained control of Congress, people like them would have fewer rights and freedoms than they do now.
Voters believe by two to one that a Republican Congress would result in women getting fewer rights and freedoms than they have now, rather than more rights.
If Republicans win by more than four to one, voters think any change in rights for LGBTQ people would mean they would get fewer rights, not more.
Voters feel that men and people of faith are more likely to gain rights than lose them if Republicans win — but many also believe things would stay the same.
How issue constituencies define this race — and why things have shifted a bit
Democrats’ lead on abortion is now slightly larger, while Republicans have not increased their support among pro-economy voters since last month.
Republicans have the same lead as they did in August among voters who say the economy and inflation are “very important” to their vote.
Democrats now have a slightly larger lead among those who say abortion is very important than they did in August.
Why? One possible reason: people who say abortion is very important to their vote tend to think Democrats are talking about the issue — more than other issues. This may satisfy their need to hear about it.
People who think the economy is very important think Republicans talk more about immigration and President Biden than their economic policy.
It is not that these topics are unimportant. It doesn’t necessarily match voters’ priorities. So there may be a relatively unmet need there. (And voters who favor the economy say Democrats talk even less about the economy.)
And that’s why the campaign right now is focused on defining what the competition is about
If Democrats want this contest to be about abortion, we can clearly see why:
The idea of a nationwide ban on abortion is very unpopular: 70% of voters oppose it.
Voters overwhelmingly reject the idea of a state requiring a woman to give birth if she becomes pregnant through rape or incest, instead saying the decision should be left to the woman.
Abortion is an issue for most women voters that should be fought back. Seven in 10 women say a candidate must agree with them to get their vote. This is higher than other problems tested. This is especially true for women who want abortion to be legal. A larger percentage of them consider this topic to be very important than the economy or inflation.
Abortion is now a major issue for Democratic women.
By a substantial margin, voters say overturning Roe makes them more likely to support a Democratic candidate than a Republican.
If Republicans want to make immigration a central issue, it matters, at least to their base. It matters when it comes to voting.
The Republican base overwhelmingly likes GOP governors sending migrants to Democratic areas of the country — nearly nine in 10 approve. Opinions on that split across party lines.
Migrant transfers may have raised the immigration issue a bit for each party’s base and a bit for independents. Both groups rate it as “very important”.
Most Republicans say they approve of moving migrants because it forces other states to address the problem and draws attention to the problem, although less than half say it’s good for migrants.
Republicans want to make crime a central issue — and they have a distinct advantage in that.
Republican politicians are seen by more voters as capable of keeping them safe. And Republicans are winning voters who say crime is very important by a large margin.
The big picture: the threat to democracy
And then — the number of those who feel threatened by democracy is still high.
The 2022 election may not end this, after a year in which election deniers have already won nominations for office.
A third of Republicans — and a full half of MAGA Republicans — think Republicans should plan to contest states and districts Democrats win in 2022 and not accept the results.
Only 17% of Democrats think Democrats should similarly protest if the GOP wins.
The Trump factor is still there
Former President Donald Trump is generally negative about the rest of the electorate. After all, so is Mr. Biden.
More voters vote to oppose Trump than to support him.
But two-thirds of Republicans say it is at least somewhat important for the party to be loyal to Trump.
Trump motivates Republican turnout: those who think loyalty to him is “very important” are more enthusiastic and more likely to say they will vote than those who place less importance on loyalty.
That makes it harder for Republican candidates to distance themselves even if they wanted to.
What can change
Here’s why Democrats are still lagging behind:
Despite growing enthusiasm, Democrats are still less likely than Republicans to say they will definitely vote. They didn’t close that gap. (A large portion of this is young people, who are less likely to show up.)
Once we get past the most pro-abortionists, Democrats still have some work to do to make this midterm electorate look like the midterms they won.
Last month we found that people are a little less negative about the economy. But nothing has changed since then. And most still expect things to slow down or head into a recession. One key factor could be the direction sentiment takes from here.
And there’s Mr. Biden. The incumbent is usually a factor in each midterm. Mr. Biden’s approval rating rose last month but has not changed since. As with the economy, moving from there could potentially change things.
Finally, each party thinks they hear a lot of campaign talk about the other side, more than the issues.
Many guerrillas continue to see the other side as enemies, a threat to their way of life—not just political opponents. This is the case for more than half of Republicans, with MAGA voters in particular seeing it this way, and nearly half of Democrats.
These voters are far more likely to see rights and freedoms at stake.
But they are also more likely to vote.
So in an election that increases voter turnout, we might expect to hear a lot of negative partisanship — because that’s what a lot of those voters want, perhaps a reflection of the state of our politics today.
This CBS News/YouGov Battleground Tracker poll was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,253 registered voters interviewed between September 21 and 23, 2022. The sample was weighted by gender, age, race and education based on the US Census American Community Survey). and the current population survey, as well as the 2020 presidential election. The margin of error is ±2.3 points. House seat estimates are based on aandnIncorporating voter responses to this survey. Each party’s seat estimate has a margin of error of ±13 seats.