Midterm Elections Shaping Up as Trump Referendum

Despite expert predictions of blue wave, Morning Consult poll indicates Republican voters are confident — while Dems, not so much

Republicans and Democrats agree on little in an increasingly polarized country, but they concur on this: The top issue in November’s midterm elections is President Donald Trump.

Pluralities of Republicans and Democrats said a congressional candidate’s position on the president was the top issue, according to the survey conducted by Morning Consult, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Among Republicans, Trump and the economy tied for 22 percent as the most important issue they would consider when voting in November. Trump edged the economy by a margin of 22 percent to 21 percent among Democratic voters.

“President Donald Trump is revered by Republicans and detested by Democrats — and what congressional candidates think of the president is more important than nearly every policy issue polled, including security and health care, for both Republicans and Democrats,” Morning Consult wrote in its “State of the Parties” survey.

The results suggest that closely contested races for seats on the House of Representatives — and partisan control of the chamber — will come down to which party does a better job mobilizing voters. It also shows why most congressional Republicans have stuck with Trump despite intense criticism he regularly takes from critics in the media and from among Democrats.

Voter anger over President Barack Obama’s policies helped fuel heavy Republican turnout in the 2010 and 2014 midterms, allowing the GOP to take control of first the House and then the Senate. Now, the “anger gap” appears to benefit Democrats. Nearly half of Democrats — 49 percent — describe themselves as feeling “angry” about the midterms, compared with just 28 percent of Republicans.

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Most experts for months have been predicting a favorable election for Democrats, with assessments ranging from merely solid to a blue wave that wipes out the GOP. Curiously, the Morning Consult poll suggests that is not the view of rank-and-file members of either party.

Democrats were far more likely to pronounce themselves “worried” about the midterms (61 percent to 37 percent), “frustrated” (58 percent to 38 percent), “helpless” (40 percent to 25 percent), and “depressed” (36 percent to 16 percent).

Republican voters are far more sanguine. They were more likely than Democrats to describe themselves as “hopeful” about the elections (74 percent to 58 percent), “excited” (52 percent to 45 percent), “confident” (61 percent to 43 percent), “proud” (56 percent to 35 percent), and “happy” (52 percent to 33 percent).

Related: Video: Dems Fear Trump Harassment Will Backfire in Midterms

The poll suggests Trump — the ultimate outsider in 2016 — has remade the Republican Party in his own image. Some 55 percent of Republican voters strongly approve of his performance, while a third somewhat approve. That is up from May 2017, when 46 percent of Republicans strongly approved and a third somewhat approved.

Trump also was the overwhelming choice of Republicans asked to name a figure who best reflects the party’s current values. While 47 percent chose him, the next-highest politician was Vice President Mike Pence, at 19 percent. No other figure got even double digits. Never-Trumper Republican John Kasich, the outgoing Ohio governor, was the pick of just 2 percent of Republicans.

Democrats, meanwhile, remain divided on the same question. Obama was the first choice, at 36 percent.

The rest of the results offer a window on the difficulty the Democrats have had coalescing around a leader. Vermont socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders — who is not even a Democrat — came in second on that question, with 15 percent. Former Vice President Joe Biden (12 percent), Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (9 percent) and defeated 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton (7 percent) round out the top five.

(photo credit, article image: Donald Trump, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore)

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