Trump Driving Higher Voter Interest in Congressional Elections

(Bloomberg) -- Voters in both parties are expressing a higher level of interest than usual in the first midterm congressional campaign of Donald Trump’s presidency, and their view of the president is driving their choices in November.

Those key findings are in a Pew Research Center report released Wednesday that explores the mood of voters less than five months before an election that will determine whether Trump’s agenda is sustained or stopped, depending on whether Democrats can take control of at least one chamber of Congress from Republicans.

The telephone survey of 2,002 adults (including 1,608 registered voters) was conducted June 5-12, before Trump returned from his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and became embroiled in a backlash over his administration’s policy of separating children from parents arrested for illegally crossing the border with Mexico.

Midterm congressional elections are traditionally a referendum on the White House occupant, but the Pew survey suggests that’s even more the case this year. Sixty percent say Trump is a major factor in their ballot choice. Twenty-six percent said their vote essentially will be for Trump, and 34 percent said it will be against him.

“That is among the highest shares saying their view of the president would be a factor in their vote in any midterm in more than three decades,” the report says.

Congressional Control

When compared with similar points in previous midterm campaigns, a record share of registered voters -- 68 percent -- say the issue of which party controls Congress will be a factor in their November vote, the survey found.

Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to win the House and are showing strength in candidate recruitment, fundraising and other metrics. The party will have a harder time reversing the 51-49 Republican majority in the Senate because it’s defending far more seats than the GOP, including in 10 states where Trump won in 2016.

Unlike in recent midterm campaigns, the report says voter engagement is running high among members of both parties. Overall, 51 percent of registered voters say they’re more enthusiastic about voting than usual, the largest share expressing such eagerness about a midterm election in at least two decades.

In voting preferences, 48 percent of registered voters say they favor the Democratic candidate in their district, or lean that way, while 43 percent favor the Republican or lean that way.

A majority of voters who favor the Democratic candidate (55 percent) say they’re more enthusiastic about voting than normal, up sharply from similar points in 2010 and 2014. At roughly this point in 2006, before Democrats went on to win both House and Senate majorities, somewhat fewer voters who backed the Democratic candidate (47 percent) said they were more enthusiastic about voting than typical.

Enthusiasm among Republican voters is almost as high, with 50 percent of those in the survey who prefer the GOP candidate saying they’re more eager than usual, comparable to the level of Republican enthusiasm in 2014 (45 percent) and 2010 (55 percent).

Voting intentions and other political attitudes, including views of Trump, are "deeply divided by education, age and gender," the report says.

Democrats continue to hold an advantage with female voters with 54 percent of women saying they support or lean toward the Democratic candidate in their district, while 38 percent favor the Republican, the report says. Among male voters, 49 percent favor the Republican, while 43 percent back the Democrat.

The gender divide is much wider among younger voters, those under 35. Women in that age group support the Democrat over the Republican, 68 percent to 24 percent. Younger men are more divided, with 47 percent backing the Democrat and 50 percent the Republican.

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