2018 midterms

Two Weeks Before Midterms, the Polls Are an Inkblot Test

There’s something to please almost everybody in the latest polls. Illustration: Jed Egan/Intelligencer

With two weeks to go before the 2018 midterm Election Day, polls are raining down all over the country. Here are the most notable results; we will be doing additional updates regularly between now and November 6.

1. Most Important New Poll(s):

The rarely polled Indiana Senate race got some fresh new public data, with surveys from IndyPolitics (showing Republican Mike Braun up by four points), SurveyUSA (incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly up by one point) and Gravis (Donnelly up by four points). This confirms that the race, which Donnelly seemed to lead comfortably in earlier assessments, has tightened up. That could be another obstacle to a Democratic takeover of the Senate.

2. Big-Picture Polls:

The congressional generic ballot, measuring partisan preferences for control of the U.S. House, has been relatively steady of late. At RealClearPolitics, which aggregates poll results without adjustments, Democrats currently hold a 7.7 percent advantage. At FiveThirtyEight, which adjusts polls for partisan bias and also weights them for polling quality, the Democratic edge is 8.5 percent. Trump’s job approval rating, another big measurement of the national environment heading into the midterms, has been slowly rising, but is still “underwater.” It’s at 44.3 percent at RealClearPolitics and 42.9 percent at FiveThirtyEight.

3. Best News for Democrats:

In the red-hot Florida gubernatorial race, Democrat Andrew Gillum has now led Republican Ron DeSantis in nineteen straight polls of likely voters. The most exciting recent result for him was a CNN poll taken from October 16–20 that shows him up 54/42. The DeSantis camp tried to break the polling monotony by releasing an internal poll (always suspect) showing their candidate up by two points, and pointing to findings elsewhere that he’s leading in early voting. But then again initial early voting in Florida is by absentee ballot and always tends to lean Republican, while the in-person early voting that tends to favor Democrats is just getting under way this week.

4. Best News for Republicans:

An NBC/Marist survey of rarely polled Mississippi gave multiple pieces of good news to Republicans about the special election to fill the Senate seat of Thad Cochran, who resigned earlier this year. First of all, appointed GOP senator Cindy Hyde-Smith leads Democrat Mike Espy by a 38/29 margin in the nonpartisan “jungle primary,” being held in conjunction with the November 6 general election, and more importantly, leads Espy 50/36 in a likely November 27 runoff. But the best news for Mississippi Republicans is probably that the same poll shows right-wing crusader Chris McDaniel, who very nearly upset Cochran in a 2014 primary, running a poor third at 15 percent in the first round. In a hypothetical runoff with McDaniel, Espy would lead 43/36.

5. Biggest Outlier(s):

That would have to be from a battery of eight House polls from Target Point, whose findings were shared with the world via the conservative Washington Free Beacon. One poll shows Virginia Republican Barbara Comstock locked in a tie with Democrat Jennifer Wexton, a race where all the other five polls show Wexton leading by margins ranging from six to 12 points. Another has California’s Mimi Walters up by eight points over Democrat Katie Porter; the other two public polls of this race show Porter leading comfortably.

Two Weeks Before Midterms, the Polls Are an Inkblot Test