WSJ: GOP has the edge on leadership, economy, enthusiasm — and direction

Source: Hot Air

Look past the topline number on this latest — and presumably final — generic ballot poll from the Wall Street Journal, which may not look terribly spectacular at the moment. An R+2 barely even pops in this field, coming in under the RCP average lead of 2.8 points for the GOP.

Keep two other points in mind. Who’s leading in enthusiasm? And what do respondents think about the direction of the country and economy? That, and one other related issue, makes this a fairly significant entry into the midterm red-wave sweepstakes:

Voters are giving Republicans a late boost in support just ahead of the midterm elections, as pessimism about the economy and the direction of the country jump to their highest levels of the year, a new Wall Street Journal poll finds.

The survey, conducted about two weeks before Election Day, suggests that abortion rights are less important in voting decisions than voters indicated in the summer, after the Supreme Court in June ended the federal constitutional right to abortion. Republicans have regained momentum since then and now hold a slight edge over Democrats, 46% to 44%, when voters are asked which party they would support in their congressional district if the election were held today. …

While the two-point Republican lead is within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, it also marks a meaningful improvement for the GOP since The Journal’s last survey, in August, when Democrats held a three-point advantage on which party voters would back for Congress. Republican voters also show more enthusiasm to vote than do Democrats, the survey finds.

The shift in preference for the GOP comes as views of the economy have turned more dour than at any point in the past year. Only 19% say the economy is headed in the right direction, down 11 percentage points from August, while 71% say the economy is on the wrong track.

First off, forget the margin of error in generic congressional ballot results. These don’t predict individual wins but rather the overall momentum in elections. The question in these polls is whether Republicans can get inside of the structural advantage Democrats traditionally get in such polling. Anything better than a D+4 usually means gains for the GOP.

That’s not the big item here anyway. Rather, the enthusiasm finding signals that the wave may be bigger than the overall results indicate. That’s especially true since the R+2 is not a likely voter result, but instead a registered voter result. If Republicans are more enthusiastic, they are more likely to turn out — and that RV R+2 may look quite a bit larger if the WSJ had actually applied a predictive LV model.

The direction numbers indicate why. Take a look in the toplines at the massive drop between the August and late-October surveys on the economy, but also the decline on overall direction too:

Both direction tracks have seriously deteriorated over the past year for the current governing party in Congress and the White House. The brief bump upward in August may either have been a reaction to the laughably labeled “Inflation Reduction Act” or polling shenanigans, but either way, Democrats are now worse off on both measures.

The same is true for the assessment of the economy. A year ago in this series, when inflation and wage erosion had been a major issue for a few months, the assessment was a -20 in the gap, with 26% rating the economy “poor.” Now it’s a -45 in the gap, up from a -29 two months ago, with 41% rating the economy “poor”. That in itself is a nine-point jump in just two months, and demonstrates the danger of disillusionment that comes from passing hobby-horse agenda bills rather than honestly addressing voters’ biggest concerns.

Want another data point? Let’s take a look at the top reasons respondents have in considering this election more important than most others. If you wonder what kind of enthusiasm will drive the midterms and the direction it will take, this should be enlightening:

  • 17%: 11% on Fiscal issues (Economy, Recession, Taxes, Spending, Debt), plus 6% on Inflation / Cost of living / Gas prices
  • 16%: We need change / New direction / We are failing / Country is a mess / Need to get back on track
  • 13%: Democracy / Voting rights / Democracy in danger / Election integrity
  • 12%: Current administration is failing / New leadership / Need new government / Our president / Get Biden out / Unable to perform job duties / Stop Biden
  • 12%: Anti-Republican / Anti-MAGA Republicans / Anti-Trump / Extreme Republicans / Stop republicans / Right wing / fascism
  • 11%: Anti-Democrat / Radical Democrats ruined country / liberal agenda / Stop socialism / Stop communism

Forty-five percent of voters are driven by current leadership failures and economic conditions. The only other double-digit categories either cancel each other out (anti-Dem, anti-GOP) or loop in issues from both sides (election integrity on the Right, “democracy in danger” on the Left. In another question, 43% of the respondents want Republicans to fully control Congress, while only 36% of respondents want Democrats to retain full control.

And there’s a reason for that — a 21-point gap in the “It’s the economy/inflation, stupid” category, and lots of issue leads beyond that:

  • Better plan to make life easier: GOP, 43/38
  • Inflation: 48/27
  • Reduce crime: 43/29
  • Reduce gun violence: 31/38 (Dems only up 7!)
  • Energy independence: 45/37
  • Abortion policy: 31/43
  • Education: 34/41
  • Prescription drug costs: 27/42
  • Secure the border: 49/21
  • Foreign policy: 46/33
  • Soaking the rich and corporations: 21/47
  • Spending tax revenues responsibly: 37/30

With all that in mind, does this election — even through the prism of this survey — look like an R+2 wave to you? Maybe among registered voters, possibly — but not among those motivated by these issues and current economic/political environment to actually cast ballots in the midterms.