A recently released Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows Republicans gaining support in the last weeks before the midterm elections. This narrows the Democrats’ long-standing lead to just 2 percentage points, which is the smallest difference to date.
When poll respondents were asked which candidate they would vote for in their congressional district if the elections were held today, 46% of registered voters chose Democrats. Another 44% said they would pick the republican.
In August, Democrats were ahead on the “generic” ballot question by 6 points – 45% to 39%. In late September, they were ahead by 4 points. The poll surveyed 1,629 U.S. adults between October 13 and 17. The margin of error was 2.7%, making it larger than the current gap between the two parties.
Republicans and Gerrymandered Districts
There are structural factors that favor Republicans. Every 10 years, after the U.S. Census, states are responsible for redrawing district lines for the House of Representatives and the state legislature. This is meant to allow states to take population changes into account for elections.
However, in many states, redistricting is not done by third parties, so politicians have the opportunity to influence districts and the saturation of Republican or Democrat votes through gerrymandering.
After months of court challenges, the Republicans ended up netting three to four new seats just through redistricting. Republicans benefited from gerrymandered districts in Florida and Texas, as well as succeeding in court challenges against Democratic gerrymanders in Maryland and New York.
Economic, Inflation Worries
Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly report on consumer price data. This report indicated that inflation remained high in September, despite being down from its peak in the summer. On Monday, A New York Times/Siena College poll showed more voters ranked the economy as their top concern.
The average American is feeling pressure on food and gas prices. When the economy is a concern, the party in control often suffers in the midterms.
Despite gas prices dropping from record highs at the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the prices are still high. This week President Biden announced he would release 15 million barrels of oil from the strategic reserve in an effort to bring down gas prices.
This is another effort in a long streak that the Democrats have taken to try to stymie inflation. Earlier this year, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act to lower prescription drug costs and fight climate change and the Chips Act to boost domestic semiconductor production.
Still, inflation is still an issue. The Fed has already brought rates up to 3-3.25% this year and is eying another rate hike in November. In updated projections, the Fed indicated that it plans to raise rates another 1.25% before the end of the year. It’s expected that another .75% will be added in November, during midterm season.