US mid-terms minus twenty days

Poor polling for the Democrats continues in the Senate as Trump’s ratings improve. The House appears better for Democrats, but are fundraising totals deceiving the models? Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian’s work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

US mid-term elections will be held on November 6. In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Democrats lead by 8.4 points in the race for Congress, the same lead they had last week, but down from an 8.7 point lead for Democrats on October 14. In the FiveThirtyEight Classic House model, there has been a boost for Democrats, with their win probability up to 84%, from 79% last week. This boost reflects the impact of strong fundraising for Democrats in the “fundamentals” calculation; ninety-two Democratic challengers outraised Republican incumbents in the September quarter.

The big question is whether these great fundraising totals for Democrats can be converted into greater support at the polls by more advertising and field operations. The FiveThirtyEight “Lite” model, which just takes the polls into account, gives Democrats a 77% chance to win the House, little changed from their position last week.

The FiveThirtyEight Classic Senate model gives Democrats just a 19% chance of winning the Senate, unchanged on last week. Poor polling has continued for the Democrats in Texas and Nevada, and Florida, Arizona and Missouri are also concerns. There is now as much chance of Republicans gaining four Senate seats for a 55-45 majority as there is of Democrats gaining the two seats they need for a majority.

Florida, Texas, Nevada and Arizona have large Hispanic populations. Hispanics usually vote strongly for Democratic candidates, but polling suggests they are less likely to vote than whites. A positive for Democrats in the Senate is that they are easily winning the mid-western states that swung from Obama to Trump in 2016; Democrats have double-digit leads in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. If these states vote Democrat in the 2020 presidential election, it will make it more difficult for Trump to win the Electoral College.

Trump’s approval in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate is 42.6% and his disapproval is 52.1% for a net approval of -9.5 points, up from -10.7 points last week. It appears this is Trump’s highest approval rating in this aggregate since May. The strong US economy is helping Trump, and he may also be benefiting from not doing or saying anything highly controversial for the last two weeks. Although Trump’s ratings are higher, the Republicans are not doing better in national likely voter polls, perhaps due to greater motivation to vote among those who disapprove of Trump.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

4 comments on “US mid-terms minus twenty days”

  1. “but are fundraising totals deceiving the models?”
    In the USA, with their voluntary voting system, fundraising and a better strategy to reach the voters are even more important than they are in Australia with our compulsory voting system.
    So what would be highly deceiving is a model without the input of fundraising.
    For instance, from the article: “Hispanics usually vote strongly for Democratic candidates, but polling suggests they are less likely to vote than whites.”…. Hence more and better resources could allow a political party to get more Hispanics (and others) out to vote on election day which btw, in the USA is “the Tuesday following the first Monday in November”… Tuesday?… Anti-democratic bastards!!…

  2. I think the issue is relying on any form of model.

    We’ve seen on the ground, the Dems GOTV machine is in full effect across the nation, the RNCC is pulling money left, right and centre (but mostly right). The Democrats aren’t just raising more money, they are raising more money almost universally across the country. That is a sign of marked enthusiasm.

    There are two big long-term precursors to wave elections in the US. The average swing in special elections and the participation of voters in early primaries. The average swing across the country for special elections was around +19 to the Democrats, seeing vast swathes of GOP suburbia move towards the Democrats in once very safe GOP territory, based off both increased Democratic turnout and the desertion of the GOP by moderate suburbanites. The second was that based on 2014 (dreadful turnout across the board – the lowest since 1942) GOP participation in primaries is up 24% but 75% with Democrats.

    This massive surge in Democratic engagement a) is not being picking up in most LV screens b) portens that the Senate polling is probably under-egging the Democrats a little.

  3. Mid-terms are usually lower turn out. I’ll be interested in this year’s turnout and how it compares with previous mid-terms and with 2016. There has been a lot of talk so far on increased registrations, e.g., but until the election we won’t know if that turns into a committed voter. (It is much harder to vote in the USA than in Australia.) There is some historical data on presidential and mid-term elections here:

  4. Nate Silver on the fundraising effect:


    Nate Silver
    I empathize with the case for sort of ignoring the fundraising numbers—the case basically being, they’re so good for Ds/bad for Rs that they seem outlier-ish and we don’t know what to do with them. But I don’t think that case is prudent or wise. You can’t just ignore outliers.

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