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U.S. Voters Using Midterms to Send Trump a Message

Politics

U.S. Voters Using Midterms to Send Trump a Message

U.S. Voters Using Midterms to Send Trump a Message

Story Highlights

  • 34% of voters are expressing opposition to Donald Trump with midterm vote
  • 26% are showing support for Trump with their midterm vote this year
  • 62% of Democrats voting to show opposition; 53% of GOP voting to show support

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sixty percent of registered voters, the highest in recent midterm elections, say they are using their vote this year to send a message about the president. More say they are signaling their opposition to President Donald Trump (34%) than their support for him (26%), marking the fourth consecutive midterm election in which opposition exceeds support. This year's eight-percentage-point margin matches the gap seen in 2010, Barack Obama's first midterm, when his party lost 63 seats and majority control in the House.

Registered Voters' Use of Midterm Election Vote to Send Message About President
Will your vote for a candidate be made in order to send a message that you SUPPORT [president], be made in order to send a message that you OPPOSE [president], or will you NOT be sending a message about [president] with your vote?
Support Oppose No message NET Support/Oppose
% % % %
Donald Trump 2018 26 34 38 60
Barack Obama 2014 17 30 51 47
Barack Obama 2010 22 30 44 52
George W. Bush 2006 18 31 46 49
George W. Bush 2002 28 15 53 43
Bill Clinton 1998* 24 19 54 43
The latest poll was conducted Oct. 15-28, 2018. Figures for prior years are from polls completed the week prior to the midterm election.
*1998 wording: What effect, if any, will the Monica Lewinsky matter have on your vote for Congress in November? Will your vote for a candidate be made in order to send a message that you SUPPORT Bill Clinton, be made in order to send a message that you OPPOSE Bill Clinton, or will you NOT be sending a message about Bill Clinton with your vote?
Gallup

Since 1998, Gallup has asked voters in each midterm election whether their vote will be made in support of or opposition to the president. The latest results are from an Oct. 15-28 poll. Before this year, the 52% of voters in 2010 who said they were voting to send a message about Obama -- either positive or negative -- was the highest on record. In 1998 and 2002, majorities of voters said their votes were not intended to send a message about the president -- but among those who were sending a message, more did so in support of the president rather than in opposition. The president's party gained seats in the House both years, in contrast to the typical pattern in which the president's party loses seats.

Obama in 2014 and George W. Bush in 2006 had the highest margins of net opposition for incumbent presidents in recent midterm elections, at 13 points. Obama's Democratic Party lost control of the Senate in 2014 after losing the House in 2010, and Bush's Republican Party lost control of both the House and Senate in 2006.

Democratic Opposition to Trump Exceeds Republican Support

Partisans' views are, not surprisingly, sharply different when it comes to this measure, and in the current climate of hyper-partisanship, their views are more polarized than ever before. Currently, 62% of Democratic voters and Democratic-leaning independent voters say their midterm vote is meant to signal opposition to Trump, while 53% of Republican voters and Republican-leaning independent voters intend to show support for Trump. By slight margins, these figures mark the highest levels of midterm votes made in support of and opposition to the sitting president since Gallup began tracking this measure.

Registered Voters' Use of Midterm Election Vote to Send Message About President, by Party
Will your vote for a candidate be made in order to send a message that you SUPPORT [president], be made in order to send a message that you OPPOSE [president], or will you NOT be sending a message about [president] with your vote?
Support Oppose No message
% % %
Donald Trump 2018
Democrats/Democratic leaners 4 62 32
Republicans/Republican leaners 53 2 43
Barack Obama 2014
Democrats/Democratic leaners 38 8 53
Republicans/Republican leaners 4 58 37
Barack Obama 2010
Democrats/Democratic leaners 45 4 48
Republicans/Republican leaners 2 58 38
George W. Bush 2006
Democrats/Democratic leaners 2 57 37
Republicans/Republican leaners 39 4 54
George W. Bush 2002
Democrats/Democratic leaners 8 31 57
Republicans/Republican leaners 51 1 46
Bill Clinton 1998*
Democrats/Democratic leaners 40 4 52
Republicans/Republican leaners 6 39 52
The latest poll was conducted Oct. 15-28, 2018. Figures for prior years are from polls completed the week prior to the midterm election.
*1998 wording: What effect, if any, will the Monica Lewinsky matter have on your vote for Congress in November? Will your vote for a candidate be made in order to send a message that you SUPPORT Bill Clinton, be made in order to send a message that you OPPOSE Bill Clinton, or will you NOT be sending a message about Bill Clinton with your vote?
GALLUP

While Democratic voters' current level of opposition is the highest recorded by Gallup, Republican voters' opposition when Obama was in the White House, in 2010 and 2014, was similar (58% both years). Likewise, in Bush's second midterm in 2006, 57% of Democrats registered opposition to him with their vote. The current 53% support for Trump among Republican voters is also a record high, with the closest being 51% Republican support for Bush in 2002. That midterm year, shortly after 9/11, Democratic voters were less negative about Bush, as were Republican voters about Bill Clinton in 1998.

Trump Mobilizing More Democrats Than Republicans

Gallup included a new question in this poll to gauge how much of a factor Trump is in mobilizing voters this year. Among registered voters, 36% say they are more likely to vote in the midterm elections because of their feelings about Trump, while 63% say their feelings about the president make no difference in whether they vote. While Trump's impact on mobilizing voters may seem somewhat low given his effect on voters' candidate choice in the question above, these questions are measuring two distinct things -- intention to vote and vote choice. Whereas voters may be more motivated to cast their ballot for a specific candidate because of their feelings about Trump, they may have intended to vote regardless of who occupies the White House.

Democratic voters are more likely than Republican voters to say they will cast a ballot because of their feelings about Trump -- 44% to 29%, respectively. Republican voters skew older and are generally more likely to vote than Democratic voters, regardless of who is president. Yet, a majority of each party's voters still say Trump will not make a difference in whether they vote this year.

Democratic Voters More Likely Than Republican Voters to Vote Because of Feelings About Trump
Are you more likely to vote in the midterm elections this year because of your feelings about Donald Trump, or do your feelings about Trump not make a difference in whether you will vote?
More likely No difference
% %
Registered voters 36 63
Democrats/Democratic leaners 44 56
Republicans/Republican leaners 29 70
GALLUP, Oct. 15-28, 2018

Implications

The president's party almost always loses House seats in midterm elections, but some years are worse than others. In recent years, 2010 and 2006 were particularly tough years for the president's party, while 1998 and 2002 were less so. Gallup's analysis of past midterm elections finds that presidential job approval is a key factor in the election's outcome. If voters have intense feelings about a president, either positive or negative, their midterm votes are more likely to be motivated by the president.

The high, sharply polarized percentage of voters who intend to send a positive or negative message about Trump in this year's election is very similar to 2010. That could portend a tough night for Trump's party, especially since the structural conditions of the two elections are similar, with a first-term president enjoying majority control of both chambers of Congress but voters largely unhappy with how the president is performing.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

Gallup

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Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/244193/voters-using-midterms-send-trump-message.aspx
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