Republicans head into the fall still in a position to secure enough seats in the House for a majority, but a tumultuous summer has made their advantage seem a little smaller today — with a trend so far pointing toward small numbers. gains instead of a wave. Our CBS News Battleground Tracker puts Republicans at 226 seats today, up from an estimated 230 in July. A majority of 218 is needed to gain control.
As Republicans continue to lead the way with people prioritizing the economy, at least three things dampen their overall advantage:
- Abortion Rights: It’s still on voters’ minds, supporting Democratic support and helping them with women in swing districts.
- Gas prices: Most are reporting that prices are falling in their area, and with them views on Biden’s approach to the economy have risen a bit — part of a slight rebound we’re seeing at the Democratic base.
- The extent to which this election is about anything other than a still shaky economy, such as:
- Donald Trump – while midterm elections are often referendums on the incumbent president, this one is also about the former. For a majority of voters, he is a factor supporting or opposing him. Democrats win voters whose vote is “much” based on how they feel about Trump.
- Republican nominees: Both women and independents (main voting groups) are more likely to say it is the Republicans who nominated candidates they would call extreme—more so than the Democrat nominees.
What about Mar-a-Lago and the search for documents?
- Save it under ‘About Donald Trump’. The FBI search hasn’t directly changed many votes because of the sharp partisan splits about it, but it could be part of a bigger problem holding back Republicans as Donald Trump remains on the minds of voters.
- Trump is a big plus for his own supporters, but they voted Republican anyway. Most ordinary Republicans want party leaders here to stand behind Trump and not criticize him. But that poses a challenge to the GOP because…
- Trump is net negative for independents. Independents prefer Republicans to criticize Trump for backing him on Mar-a-Lago. Half of independent voters cite Trump as a factor in their vote, and by four to one they are voting against him (far worse than Biden’s support-to-back ratio).
Most independents, like most Democrats, see the search for Mar-a-Lago as an attempt to protect national security. They are different from Republicans, who see a political attack on Trump.
Why it has emerged as a big factor:
- There is a widespread perception among women that if Republicans come to power, they will make restricting abortion a priority (65%), even more so than inflation (56%).
- More Democrats (77%) say abortion is “very important” than any other issue that way – it’s neck and neck with gun policies and ahead of the economy and inflation.
- By more than two to one, voters are likely to say their vote will be for Congress to support abortion rights rather than oppose them.
- The motivation around the issue is one-sided: Republicans tend to say their vote isn’t about abortion, but most Democrats say Roe’s overthrow has increased their support for their party’s candidates.
- It could help Democratic candidates with those on the fence: Outside and undecided voters for whom the overthrow of Roe is a factor say they want to support the Democrats over the Republicans by four to one.
Related: Check Out Important Group Of Women With College Degrees
In the last two elections, white women with college degrees were key to the winning coalition of the Democrats, voting for them in double digits. And then this year, amid economic pessimism, the Democrats slipped with this group.
Today we see the Democrats recover: Their lead over white women with college degrees has increased by seven points since thenand is currently at 13 points. It’s not back to 2018 levels, but it helps explain some of the seat shift as these women are key in key swing districts.
More of those who were undecided have moved to the Democrats for the time being. The issue of abortion is a motivator – most say their vote this year will be to support abortion rights.
Gas and the Economy – Can Biden Base a Rally?
A majority of voters say gas prices are falling in their area.
Fewer Americans view the economy negatively than a month ago, although it is still seen as bad. Fears of a recession are looming, but more voters are now seeing that the economy will at least remain stable than it was in June.
Biden’s approval of the job, and in particular his job classifications when dealing with bread-and-butter issues such as the economy, inflation and gas prices, have all risen. His overall job approval number is the highest since February among registered voters.
Here’s why improving the outlook on the economy helps strengthen democratic foundations heading into the fall:
- Much of Mr Biden’s profits come from Democrats. He is eight points higher than the Democrats who strongly approve of him since July. And we see a marked increase in their feelings about the province in general: 52% now say things are going at least somewhat well, up from 39% in July.
- This is beginning to reverse some of the losses we have incurred in Mr Biden’s own party over the past year. These developments may have given the base a reason to reassess.
- Look at young people, whom the Democrats are counting on: The waiver of some of the student loans is especially popular among voters under the age of 30. And the president’s overall approval rating is now positive for them, up from last month.
The next hurdle for Democrats, however, is getting young people to vote in out-of-year elections — they still don’t vote in the kind of numbers older people do.
The improvement among voters in general is smaller: 28% now say things are going well, compared to 22% last month. Of course, that’s still low.
The Inflation Reduction Act gets a slim majority of voters, but opinions are divided on whether it will help them personally. Likewise, a small majority support paying off student loans.
So why are Republicans still ahead?
Democrats may be able to turn the tide or strengthen their bases, but Republicans still have a big lead among voters who prioritize inflation and the economy. Moreover, a year of voter frustration over these issues will not go away overnight, as evidenced by the belief of more voters that Republicans will prioritize inflation if they gain control of Congress than Democrats if they win.
There are also simply more safe Republican seats than Democratic seats in the House. Republicans only need to flip four competitive seats to gain a majority.indicates that they would be in a good position to do so if the elections were to take place today.
This CBS News/YouGov Battleground Tracker survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,126 registered voters interviewed between August 24-26, 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 ±2.4 points. House seats estimates are based on ato process voter responses to this survey. The estimate of each party’s seats has a margin of error of ±13 seats.