On Tuesday, Politico and Morning Consult published a poll showing Republicans ahead of Democrats by one point in the generic ballot. This is an improvement for the GOP—Morning Consult put Democrats ahead by four in its last two polls and had them up by 10 in December. The poll also shows Trump with a 47 percent approval rating (equal to his disapproval rating) and is, on the whole, one of the best polls Republicans have seen in a while.
So does this poll prove that Republicans are now ahead in the race for the House and Trump is popular?
But it does emphasize one of the key dynamics of the race for control of the House so far—that the race has generally been trending towards Republicans for more than a month, even though Democrats still have an overall better position in the polls.
Since the new year, the Democratic edge in generic ballot polls has been diminishing. On January 1 of this year, Democrats held a 12.9 point edge in the RealClearPolitics average, but as of this morning that advantage had dropped to 6.7 points. FiveThirtyEight’s average of polls showed a similar drop—the Democratic advantage went from 12.9 points on January 1, to 7.1 points as of this morning.
So the GOP really has been gaining ground in the generic ballot. Some of this movement seems to have come from an increase in the GOP’s numbers (support for Republicans went from 36.1 percent to 38.4 percent in the RCP average since the new year) and some has come from diminished support for Democrats (the RCP average gave Democrats 49 percent on January 1, but they’re now at 45.1 percent).
All of that said, the Democrats still have a real advantage. RCP and FiveThirtyEight both gave Democrats roughly a 7-point lead as of this morning, and according to the New York Times Upshot, Democrats need a 7.4 point advantage in the House popular vote to win the chamber. Obviously there’s a margin of error on that estimate and generic polls don’t perfectly predict the final House popular vote. But the point is clear: While the GOP has been improving their standing, their hold on the lower chamber is far from safe. In fact, I would guess, based on the fact that the generic ballot often moves away from the president’s party, that Democrats still have a greater than 50 percent chance of taking the House.
The easiest way to explain this dynamic—the Democratic advantage diminishing while their overall position stays strong—is to look at Trump.
As I pointed out last week, Trump is still historically unpopular, but his increase in popularity coincides with a period of (by Trump standards) quietness. I haven’t measured this, but it intuitively seems that he hasn’t picked any cultural fights that have the same level of salience and impact as, say, his fights with NFL players who kneeled during the National Anthem. He also hasn’t publicly pushed any large, unpopular bills recently. And the one major bill that Republicans passed in 2017 (the tax reform bill) has seen an uptick in popularity.
When Trump is silent, he likely gets more credit for the solid economy and the fact that there are no foreign policy crises dominating the headlines. And when Trump’s approval increases, the GOP has room to grow. In some past midterm elections (and in many 2017 polls) the president’s approval rating has served as a ceiling for the incumbent party’s support in generic ballot polls—and that holds in this Morning Consult poll, with the GOP getting 39 percent in the generic ballot and Trump outpacing them at 47 percent approval.
The bottom line of the Morning Consult poll isn’t that the race has been turned upside down, or that the GOP is now in the lead. But it is another data point supporting the idea that Trump’s relative quietness is likely helping the GOP wear down the Democratic advantage.
Source : http://www.weeklystandard.com/shock-poll-republicans-take-lead-in-generic-ballot/article/2011583810