A voter wearing a Ruth Bader Ginsburg t-shirt is at an early voting polling site at Frank McCourt High School on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City on Tuesday, November 1, 2022.
AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey
Matt Katz: It's The Takeaway. I'm Matt Katz in for Melissa Harris-Perry.
Midterm election season has got just five days to go. It feels like these midterms have been going on forever, and they kind of have. The very first primary election of the season was held over eight months ago. It's hard to maintain voter enthusiasm and interest for this stuff for eight months straight.
Democrats and Republicans have been ramping it up in these final weeks. Former President Trump has made appearances in Arizona and Texas. President Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders, and former President Obama are stumping for candidates in Wisconsin, Florida and--
Barack Obama: It is good to be back in Nevada.
Matt Katz: The question is will it be enough. This week's NPR, PBS Newshour, and Marist poll found that some of the key voter groups for Democrats are now feeling way less enthusiastic than Republicans are about voting. Joining me now is Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College. Thanks for being here, Lee.
Lee Miringoff: My pleasure, Matt.
Matt Katz: Which groups of Democratic voters aren't feeling the energy right now? Can you suss that up for us?
Lee Miringoff: Sure. When we look at the adults as a whole and then look at who are the definite voters in all this, we see some drop off among the key democratic constituencies, especially among people who are 19 to 30 years of age. Calling it the Gen Z Millennial group or the people under 30, whatever you want to call it, however you want to label it, that's the group that seems to be the least knowing at the bit here as far as the election is concerned. We see it also to a lesser degree, but a significant degree among people of color.
We're not seeing the overwhelming turnout among women, especially in the suburbs, who were scoring higher in the summer months immediately following the Dobbs decision. Overall, we look at around the country, we see that 88% of Republicans say they're definitely going to vote, but 82% of Democrats say the same. There is that drop-off and that's some concern, I assume, for the Democrats here in the closing days.
Matt Katz: You mentioned the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs. What happened to this surge in Democratic voter interest and engagement over abortion after that decision? It seemed to be feverish at the time. What happened?
Lee Miringoff: Well, inflation happened, and the economy and concern over that, which is the number one issue overall, and definitely the number one issue among Republicans. I should say that it's a little misleading because people don't necessarily single-issue vote. They very often conflate lot of different issues to come up with a landscape picture of what they're thinking, their perspective, but the Democrats and Republicans are just totally two different worlds here. For the Republicans, it's inflation, it's immigration, it's crime. For Democrats, it's preserving the democracy, it's abortion and then inflation is there, but not obviously on the top of their mind.
The electorate has changed from the summer months. There's that concern that Democrats have, if you take the preserving democracy and add to it abortion, that you do get some very significant numbers. That's why this is all very close. It's not that the Democrats are getting blown away or the Republicans are on their way to the landslide shellacking that often happens in the president's first midterm election where the party out of power often gets clobbered. That's not what we're looking at, but we're looking at the situation where it may be atypically close, but the Democrats could be doing a lot better in terms of taking a bigger slice of the economy concerns, which Republicans are seen as better able to handle.
Matt Katz: You also found that 62% of Democrats said they had already voted or plan to vote. That seems pretty high. Can you help make sense of that?
Lee Miringoff: Yes. As soon as you say something about the midterm elections of 2022, you have to characterize it and say, "Well, let me qualify that a little bit." Democrats vote early and tend to do that either in person, but especially by absentee mail ballot. Republicans are day of voters. That's why we see such a difference, depending on what load is counted earlier, like in Pennsylvania, when the absentee ballots aren't counted till the end.
The Republican candidates will be way in front. We call it the red mirage here. It's going to be way in front and then all of a sudden, they dump in the early vote, and the Democrats like 2020 suddenly become a very different picture. You have this situation here where you got the early vote versus the day of vote. That's nothing new. We saw it back in Obama's two presidential races where McCain in '08 and Romney in 2012 actually won the election day vote. It was the earlier vote that the Democrats had run up the total and helped prove to be the difference.
Right now we see more and more early voting, in part a reaction to COVID, but also just that's the way people prefer to vote right now. They can avoid long lines by getting into the polls earlier. Bigger, bigger groups vote early, and yes, the Democrats are the ones who are the ones who are showing up now and in larger numbers than is typically the case for a midterm election. In fact, it comes close to where we were in a presidential election year. That is a factor working in favor of the Democrats.
Matt Katz: I just want to take a look at another finding from this NPR/PBS/Marist poll. 59% of Americans said it's better for Congress and the White House to be controlled by the same party. What's that about, and is one political party or the other driving that?
Lee Miringoff: Yes, that is also a factor working. It's the enthusiasm of the Republicans, but then for the first time in over a decade, we're seeing by over a 20-point margin, people are telling us that it's better to have the president and Congress are the same political party like we have right now. That speaks to, well, maybe we shouldn't start throwing out the Democrats out of Congress because then we get that kind of dysfunction, the stalemate, that people are so fed up with. There's an interest here in moving things forward. It probably would have been stronger had the Democrats been messaging about this where they could be talking about what their accomplishments were, and we don't want to go backwards to divided government. They haven't been making that case and yet the numbers are reflecting by Democrats, three to one are saying that. Republicans, shockingly, are actually even on that question.
Again, when we talk about the midterm elections, I think it all adds up to greater uncertainty, less predictability because you have so many unusual things, not the least of which is you have a current president and a former president who are both making this a referendum on them. It's usually, the former president vanishes, and you're having just the current president who's having to fight off all the issues and the like.
Right now that you have Donald Trump having been such an important figure in the nomination process in a lot of these Senate races, which probably wouldn't have been as close had not some of the candidates who ended up with the Republican nomination, having been there because of Donald Trump, having gotten them into the race, like the Herschel Walkers or the Dr. Ozs. Those are people that were brought into this by Donald Trump. They were good primary candidates. It's been a tougher sell for the general electorate in the fall. That's why we're seeing not the shellacking we think that is the type of situation that a first-term midterm for the party in power typically has as a result.
Matt Katz: Lee Miringoff is the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College. Lee, thanks so much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
Lee Miringoff: Yes, it's been a pleasure. Thank you, Matt.
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