Fox News Poll: Polarization defines the midterm election

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When inflation and crime are voters’ biggest concerns – and the economy and the president are rated negatively – it seems safe to predict the incumbent party will get punished at the ballot box. But political polarization and the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade may spare Democrats a trouncing in November, as the latest Fox News survey finds the parties evenly matched on size, enthusiasm, and loyalty. 

Roughly the same number of voters self-identify as Democrats (42%) and Republicans (41%) and 47% of both parties feel more enthusiastic about voting this year than usual. Plus, party loyalty on the generic House ballot is strong, as 92% of Democrats support their candidate and 91% of Republicans back theirs. Independents prefer the Democrat by 4 points (however, nearly two-thirds are undecided or plan to vote for a third party). 

Overall, if the election were today, 44% would back the Democratic candidate in their district and 41% the Republican. That’s unchanged since September, and within the margin of error. 

Among the subgroup who rate themselves a 10-out-of-10 on certainty to vote, the Democratic candidate trails the Republican by 1 point: 46% vs. 47%. 

That shift in vote preference is because more Republicans (70%) than Democrats (65%) say they are certain to vote.

Generic voter preference for congressional candidates.

Generic voter preference for congressional candidates.
(Fox News)

“Even a slight Democratic edge in the generic ballot is still likely to yield modest Republican seat gains in the House,” says Republican pollster Daron Shaw, who conducts the Fox News poll with Democrat Chris Anderson. “These results indicate a tight battle for control of the lower chamber, but it’s still a month out and a late break one way or the other could have a major impact.”

The Fox News model predicts how many House seats will switch party based on an algorithm using the generic ballot from past midterm elections.

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The Democratic candidate is the pick among voters with a college degree, those under age 45, and Hispanics. The Republican is ahead among Whites without a college degree, voters ages 65 and over, and men. 

Republicans seem to have an advantage on the issues. Out of 12 concerns, the top two to voters are inflation (89%) and crime (79%) — and they trust Republicans more than Democrats to handle both.  

Republicans are seen as better on border security (by 21 points), crime (R+15), inflation (R+13), and foreign policy (R+9). Democrats are more trusted on climate change (D+20), health care (D+17), and abortion (D+6). Views are closely divided on energy policy and what’s taught in schools.

Issues GOP handle better than Democrats, according to voters.

Issues GOP handle better than Democrats, according to voters.
(Fox News)

Neither party has an edge on uniting the country — an issue where Democrats were favored by 9 points in January.

Issues Democrats handle better than GOP, according to voters. 

Issues Democrats handle better than GOP, according to voters. 
(Fox News)

Other issues that most voters are extremely or very concerned about are political divisions within the country (74%), Russia-Ukraine (73%), schools (72%), abortion (71%), gun laws (69%), and border security (67%). Smaller majorities worry about climate change (63%), election denial (63%), and voter fraud (55%). It’s less than half for coronavirus (44%). 

Percentage that voters are "extremely" or "very" concerned about certain issues.

Percentage that voters are “extremely” or “very” concerned about certain issues.
(Fox News)

The Republican candidate is favored by 13 points among those who are “extremely” concerned about inflation and by 18 points among crime voters, while those worried about abortion pick the Democrat by 26 points.

The economic backdrop is ugly for the Democrats. Large majorities rate economic conditions negatively (78%) and say it’s getting worse (73%) — and more than two-thirds are unhappy with how things are going in the country (69%). Only 15% say their family is better off compared to two years ago, with another 71% cutting back on spending to afford necessities. Notably, majorities of independents say the economy is getting worse (87%) and they’re worse off (52%).  

Compared to two years ago, how is your family's financial situation?

Compared to two years ago, how is your family’s financial situation?
(Fox News)

But instead of the midterms being solely a referendum on President Biden, for an equal number their vote is about former President Trump. Two-thirds say they’ll use their vote to send a message to Biden, with more expressing opposition (38%) than support (28%). It’s identical for Trump (38% conveying opposition and 28% support).

Biden receives his lowest job ratings on inflation: 29% approve and 67% disapprove. That’s net negative by 38 points. 

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In fact, his marks are underwater on every issue measured: Ukraine (-8 points), climate (-9), energy (-10), foreign policy (-13), crime (-21), and border security (-24), and the economy (-27). 

Yet overall approval of Biden is up to 46%, his highest since January’s 47%.  It was 43% in September. The uptick is mainly driven by increases among voters under age 45, those with a college degree, and urban voters. His approval stands at 87% among Democrats, up 4 points since September and up 9 since July.

President Biden's job performance according to voters from January 2022 until now.

President Biden’s job performance according to voters from January 2022 until now.
(Fox News)

“Whether it’s Biden’s recent actions on things like student debt forgiveness and marijuana pardons, his handling of Ukraine, or the increasing partisan environment approaching the midterm, the base is behind him in a way they weren’t just a few months ago,” says Anderson.

The poll, released Sunday, shows that current lawmakers matching their best rating of 2022, although it’s still terrible: 26% approve of Congress, while 67% disapprove.

 How polarized are the parties? Only 18% of Democrats say that Republicans love America and truly want what’s best for the country. Even fewer Republicans, 9%, think Democrats do.

Voters were asked what issue they must agree with candidates on to support them. Abortion is the clear deal-breaker for Democrats, as the largest share (29%) says it is a must-agree issue. For Republicans, it’s mixed among the economy (18%), abortion (15%), border security (12%), and party affiliation (11%). For independents, it’s the economy (17%) and abortion (16%).

Deal-breaker issues for voters.

Deal-breaker issues for voters.
(Fox News)

Abortion is the top must-agree issue for both Democratic (35%) and Republican (19%) women.

Overall, more voters are angry (43%) than happy (25%) about the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, with about one quarter indifferent. Nearly half of women are angry, including 26% of Republican women. Among the 15% undecided about their House vote, four times as many are angry as are happy.

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Poll-pourri

-While 52% of voters want Washington to “lend me a hand,” an even larger majority, 60%, says it would be a bad thing for the country to move more toward socialism. 

-The share concerned about the war in Ukraine is up 8 points in the last month, as three-quarters worry it could escalate into a broader war and that Russia could use nuclear weapons.

-More voters disapprove (50%) than approve (44%) of governors in border states moving migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. to other states.

-On the GOP’s “Commitment to America,” by a 5-point margin more have a favorable than an unfavorable view of the plan, although a majority hasn’t heard enough to say. 

CLICK HERE FOR TOPLINE AND CROSSTABS

Conducted October 9-12, 2022, under the joint direction of Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R), this Fox News Poll includes interviews with 1,206 registered voters nationwide who were randomly selected from a national voter file and spoke with live interviewers on both landlines and cellphones. The total sample has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. 

Fox News’ Victoria Balara contributed to this report.

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