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Despite Months of Political Tumult, Voters Steady Heading into Election Day

Voters Heavily Engaged in Midterms but Not Shifting Views Ahead of Voting Tuesday, New GW Politics Poll Finds

November 05, 2018
Jason Shevrin: [email protected], 202-994-5631
Timothy Pierce: [email protected], 202-994-5647
WASHINGTON (Nov. 5, 2018)—Despite a variety of high-visibility political issues on the national stage throughout the last few months, voters’ views of most notable political figures, the parties and the issues have remained incredibly steady leading up to the midterm elections according to a new edition of the George Washington University Politics Poll. The GW Politics poll continues to show a slight democratic advantage in the generic ballot, in views of incumbents and in engagement with the election. 
While opinions haven’t changed, voters are heavily engaged in the election. The poll showed that as the election drew closer, more registered voters talked with people about reasons to vote for parties or candidates (42 percent compared with 38 percent in the poll’s last edition in early August). A third (33 percent) of voters reported being contacted by one of the political parties, an increase of 7 points from the summer. 
The GW poll data also continued to indicate a large voter response for the midterm elections. More than four out of five (82 percent) registered voters said they definitely will vote in the midterm elections. Another 11 percent said they probably would. Although both Republicans and Democrats in the poll are equally likely to report they plan to vote, Democrats reported more engagement in each wave of the poll leading up to the election. Democrats are more likely to report having gone to a meeting or rally, working for a party or candidate, using social media to share an opinion, giving money and displaying a campaign button, sticker or sign. Democrats also are more likely to report being contacted by one of the parties (37 percent) compared to Republicans (31 percent). 
Despite increased attention and outreach, voter opinions on most issues, including tax policy, immigration, health care and gun control, stayed largely the same as previous editions of the GW poll in the spring and summer. 
“I think most people know that we live in a world of strong partisanship, which is increasingly evident in congressional voting. But how much partisanship helped stabilize people’s preferences in this election season still surprised me,” GW Politics Poll co-director John Sides said in a companion article on the Washington Post’s “Monkey Cage” blog.
There was a slight shift in the major political parties’ strengths in a generic match-up: 48 percent of voters polled in October said they’d vote for the Democratic Party if the election were held then, an increase of 3 points from the summer edition of the poll. The amount of respondents favoring the Republican Party in a generic matchup increased to 40 percent from 38 percent. This movement comes as undecided voters made up their minds with the approaching election but the movement failed to favor one party over the other.  The democratic advantage in the generic house ballot in May was virtually identical to that in October. 
Judiciary Concerns
For the first time, the GW Politics Poll asked registered voters their opinions of Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. More people viewed him unfavorably (50 percent) than favorably (40 percent). Out of the half of respondents with a negative opinion of the justice, most (42 percent of all respondents) said their opinion was very unfavorable. Only 27 percent saw him very favorably. Voters were split on whether Mr. Kavanaugh should be been confirmed (43 percent) or not (47 percent).
The latest edition of the GW poll, taken a few weeks after Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the court, also showed voters becoming a bit more pessimistic about the future of landmark ruling Roe v. Wade. A third (33 percent) of those polled thought it was likely to be overturned, up two points from the summer edition of the poll. The amount of voters who found it unlikely decreased from 53 to 49 percent. 
Issues Worth Watching
In another new question for the GW poll, a majority of registered voters (58 percent) expressed support for legalizing marijuana. Only 29 percent said use of the drug should be illegal. 
On the economy, the percentage of people who thought the economy is getting better stayed the same (at 39), but there was a decrease in those who thought it was getting worse, from 24 percent over the summer to 19 percent in October. 
President Donald Trump’s approval rating stayed mostly the same but some people seemed to be losing patience with him. His disapproval rating remained at 53 percent in October, the same as the summer edition of the poll, but his approval rating dropped to 43 percent from 45 percent. 
For additional data including individual politicians’ approval ratings and voters’ thoughts on presidential pardons, the special counsel investigation and more, visit the GW Politics Poll website. For interviews with the professors leading the poll, contact GW’s press office.
About the GW Politics Poll
The GW Politics Poll is managed jointly by GW's School of Media and Public Affairs, Graduate School of Political Management and Department of Political Science. YouGov, a respected leader in online polling, conducted the academic, nonpartisan research poll for GW. This poll was fielded Oct. 17-25, 2018, with a sample of 2,321 registered voters (reintroduced from 3,150 who participated in the May 2018 poll) and a margin of error of ±2 percentage points. This is the third of four surveys focused on the 2018 midterm elections. The GW Politics Poll will interview the same respondents after the election to track public views over the course of the campaign.
The GW Politics Poll continues the strong tradition of public opinion research at GW, which includes the GW Battleground Poll, a nationally recognized series of surveys conducted by Republican pollster Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners. The final edition of the GW Battleground Poll was released in March 2018.
YouGov recruits individuals in a variety of ways into their panel and then uses sample matching to create a representative sample from this nonrandomly selected pool. YouGov has constructed a sampling frame of U.S. citizens from the American Community Survey, including data on age, race, gender, education, marital status, number of children under 18, family income, employment status, citizenship, state and metropolitan area.