The Myth of the Democrat Surge

At the entrance to the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina is a sign that reads, “The noise you hear is the sound of freedom.” Well, the noise you hear right now is the sound of Democrats whistling past the graveyard, with various claims that they are surging – by both closing the enthusiasm gap and by improving on the generic ballot.

In the last two weeks, I’ve polled in more than 50 congressional districts (nearly all of them currently Democratic-held), and there is no evidence of a surge of either Democratic enthusiasm or of a surge in ballot strength.

The enthusiasm gap – which I measure by comparing net difference in the overall ballot among likely voters and the ballot among the most highly interested voters (the 8-10s on a scale of 1-10) – actually widened last week compared to the week prior.

The gap has gone from 4.6 two weeks ago to 5.4 last week (while not statistically significant, it did move in the right direction).  Thus, a candidate who is leading by 2{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} overall leads by approximately 7.4{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} among the most interested voters.  Remember, that’s the average across the districts – the actual enthusiasm gap varies from district to district, and there is no discernible pattern as to where it is larger or smaller.

To further explore the concept of a Dem surge, I also went back and looked at 41 Democratic-held districts where we polled in August/early September, and then once again just within the last two weeks. The net shift across the generic ballot was, on average, -0.24{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} – essentially one quarter of a percent. That does not represent a statistical significant shift over the course of one month (take out the worst performing district and the average shift was a +0.15{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}).

Overall, the GOPer leads in these more than 40 Democrats held seats by +7.7 on the generic.  That is a significant margin.  While individual campaigns do not always match the generic, a lead of this size across forty Democrat districts underscores how tilted the political environment is against the Democrats.

Individual campaigns will have their fortunes wax, while others will have their fortunes wane. However, the political environment is as strong for Republicans now as it was one month ago.

As I noted last week, it is likely that the enthusiasm gap will fall back a few points, but it still means Republicans will win the close races.

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