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Polling numbers still not good for Democrats

Polling numbers still not good for Democrats

If you have been paying attention to the news reports on the latest round of polling, you might be inclined to believe that Democrats are on track to win the 2022 midterms elections.  That is because the media is spinning it,  The numbers are looking better for Democrats than a couple months back – but better does not mean good.  

It all depends on how the numbers are analyzed … interpreted … spun.  Both sides like to make the numbers as good as possible for their side.  There seems to be a belief that by making the number look better than they are can be some sort of self-proving prophecy.  Consequently, you have very different interpretations between the two sides.  There is a Republican spin and a Democrat spin.

There is also an objective spin. I have always believed that there is no real benefit to twisting the numbers.  In fact, as a political consultant, I have had to disregard the Republican spin and the Democrat spin.  My clients did not pay me for partisan propaganda.  My prognostications had to be accurate or I would not have clients.

With that in mind, I offer my analysis … not spin.  And the devil is in the details.

The most recent comprehensive poll has just been published by NBC.  All the networks are now giving us their spin.  I have yet to see an analyst without a bias … without a partisan spin.  I will try to avoid that problem.

Looking at the NBC poll, I would say that the numbers are not as bad for Democrats as they were in March – but they have not moved into a winning level for the donkey party.  

First and foremost, President Biden’s current approval rating sucks.  It was abysmal 42 percent in May and is 42 percent today, according to NBC.  In the interim, it had dropped to an unprecedented record-breaking 36 percent — the worst of any President since the advent of polling.  Forty-two percent is better than 36 percent, but not enough to wipe out predictions of a substantial victory for the GOP.

In addition, approximately 75 percent of voters do not want Biden to seek re-election.  Most voters do not want Trump either – but Trump is not in office and not running the country.  The onus is on Biden and the Democrats.

MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki pointed out that the only times a first term President gained seats in Congress from the mid-term election was George Bush in 2002 and Bill Clinton in 1994 – and both had a favorability rating approaching 70 percent.  It is doubtful that Biden will get his approval rating over 50 percent between now and the November election.

I recently wrote a commentary questioning whether Biden had a messaging problem, or his programs are not as popular as Democrats and their media allies contend.  We do have some numbers on that subject.  According to NBC, only 42 percent of registered voters say the Biden legislative package was a “good idea.”  Thirty-one percent clearly see it as a “bad idea.”  And 26 percent have “no opinion.”

In these situations, those who are not for you are against you.  That means after all the promotion and publicity given to Biden programs – and all the bragging from Biden himself – 57 percent of the voters on not convinced.  If Democrats were believing that the passage of the legislation would catapult them into the lead in the coming election, they should be sorely disappointed in those numbers.

Another question has to do with the direction of the nation.  This one almost always reflects what voters think of the party in power.  Currently, a whopping 74 percent say America is heading in the wrong direction.  If you look at it from the other side, it is even worse.  The NBC poll finds that only 16 percent of voters believe the nation is going in the right direction — 16 PERCENT!  Combine that with Biden’s favorability rating and there is no doubt that most Americans are unhappy with Democrat governance.

Another overarching question is “which party would you rather see in control of Congress?”  In that, Republicans have a narrow lead of two points – 68 to 66.  When viewed with a historic perspective that is a better result than the actual numbers suggest.  In 1994, Republicans had a 6-point lead in the generic pols when they had a net gain of 54 seats in the house – and won control.  In 2010, Republicans had a net 63 seat gain – and control of the House – even though Democrats had a 1.4 percent lead in the generic ballot.  It was the greatest number of flipped seats since 1948.  The point is, Republicans generally perform better than the generic ballot suggests.  That is partially due to the independent voters.  Analysts should not ignore that fact.

Then there are key issues, I found what NBC put out was misleading.  First, they declared that concern over the future of Democracy was now the number one concern with a 21 percent response.  But is it really?  Number 2 is “cost of living” (16%) and “jobs/economy (14%).  That means the economy is actually at 30 percent — and the number one issue for voters.  Looking it another way, only one out of five voters see the democracy as the top issue.  One out of three are worried about the economy.

Some of the media analysts expressed surprise – maybe even shock – that abortion garnered only 6 percent as a critical voting issue.  (I have consistently written that abortion does not decide elections.  Neither does the gun issue.)  Polling suggests that there has been an increase – to 63 percent – of voters who want abortion to remain legal – albeit limited.  But it is not a driving or seminal issue.  Climate is at 8 percent.

Immigration comes in third (13%) behind “threats to democracy”.  If you divide the issues as beneficial to Republicans or beneficial to Democrats, it works out to a 43 to 32 advantage GOP.

Good polling analysis often means looking at what may not be what it seems.  Democrats and the left-leaning media are celebrating the fact that “threat to the democracy” is now (dubiously) number one – largely because the economy was split into two questions.  They are assuming that those concerned about democracy are anti-Trump voters.  But that may not be the case.

According to Kornacki’s breakdown, the 21 percent of those worried about the American democracy are Democrats at 28 percent and Republicans at 18 percent.  That suggests that a lot of conservative Republicans are worried about democracy – about a federal bureaucracy running amok and politicizations of government institutions.  

If you believe that the NBC poll will give any indication as to the outcomes of the midterm elections, consider this.  There is no mention of the all-important independents.  Either they did not poll for them – and that would be malfeasance – or they did not include them in the reports.  Since independent – or unaligned – voters comprise approximately one-third of the total, not factoring them in into the reports is egregious. If the past is prologue, however, the independents will break for the GOP.  Without that information, we are left with speculation, partisan assumptions, and biased spin.

At this juncture, it would appear that Republicans will get control of the House with a 20 to 35 seat net gain.  Yes, that is a wide range, but it is still pretty early in the season.  The Democrats, their media allies, and two prominent Republicans are hoping otherwise, but they are running out of options to change the trajectory for the House.  More so-called “blockbusters” regarding Trump are not going to do it.  He is not on the ballot.  And the campaign against the GOP as the party of treason has reached its limit of gullible voters.

Regarding the Senate, the odds – or at least the polls – appear to be favoring Democrats.  Republican candidates are trailing in the polls in virtually every battleground state – states in which the GOP is facing democrat incumbents and even open seats in states that were previously held by Republican Senators.  That could change over time, but I think the GOP has a lock on the House and most of the highly contested state races and local races.  And if you forced me to bet, I believe the GOP will take the Senate despite the latest polls.  The latest numbers should have Republican leaders smiling.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. tom

    Thank you for acknowledging we Independent voters! It really is our vote they should be working hard to get. We can make or break either party. I was not aware of the NBC poll but have been sensitive to all of the media rah rah about democrats feeling good. I kept wondering why they felt good because it seemed to me that they should be concerned. Seems like my gut instincts were correct. Good post Larry.

  2. frank stetson

    As I have, said, when you have difficulty in a topic, you tend to run long. Larry is very efficient in his words here, but it does run long. That’s because of his deleterious diatribe discussing objectivity. Larry, we all try to be objective, but we all spin. Especially with a grab bag of polls, attitude studies and your combining/extracting polling questions. You have to know that you can’t combine two polling questions to create a third answer, yet you do it.

    That said, I agree, we have a better chance in the Senate than the House but my assessment is based not only on current polling but on the quality of Republican candidates where you have put up some real crazies, it’s like Oz in your party, when our party looks a bit more like Kansas. I don’t think we will end up in a “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Most, but not all, Republicans from the land of Oz are going down.

    I am not sure your opinion on Independents leaning right is correct, most lean democratic with only a small portion uncommitted, or truly independent. I think it’s 17% left, 13% right, and 7% uncommitted for a 37% total. According to Pew.

    As you say, we have the momentum, but that can be fleeting and there is still time. I disagree that abortion is not important. It’s important to all, more so to women, and it crosses party lines, mostly to the pro choice side. And every time you castigate us as pro abortion, you help, thank you very much. It’s a giant shoot yourself in the foot moment that will not fade long past November.

    Economy not even, many hurting, Biden’s approval affected mightily, many blunders like Afghanistan in first two years. But, like it or not, more legislation and EO’s offering jobs, help with loans, healthcare enhancements, more climate change legislation since the 70’s, and other things making a wide swath of Americans winners, although it some case like infrastructure, they may not realize it by November — thus, better messaging could help. Like it or not, Biden has been masterful at getting things done. No ranting and raving, no failed ObamaCare overturns, lots of compromise and forward movement on the plan we voted for.

    It could work. Between your self-inflicted wounds, whack-job candidates, etc. we could pull it off.

    And then there’s the Trump factor. Could help either side but sure looks like he will be indicted and the 1/6 committee isn’t even done. That’s the wild card and trust me, “it will be wild.” But I think most Americans will wonder about 35 boxes of documents, the overt lying about them, the lack of security at Mar A Loser, and all the top secrets basically in the open air and that will limit the Trumplicants from galvanizing Republicans for the midterms. He’s going down on this one because it’s easy for all Americans to understand and in plain view.

    So, the next two years are pretty much like the last two years, and Joe will not get what he wants. Frankly, that’s fine will me because Joe has proven during the last two years that he can get what he needs.

    I do think you were objective, but everybody spins.

    • larry Horist

      Frank Stetson … LOL. YOU criticize me for too many words — but still compliment me for being for being “very efficient.” You remind me of a pizza ad I just saw that says the crust is “crisp” and “chewy.” I have neither the time nor the interest in going point-by-point on your harangues, but on one point — in saying independents tend to break for the GOP, I was referring to voters — not poll respondents. It is not always the case, but it tends to be.