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Poll Shows Tight Race for Control of Congress as Class Divide Widens

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With President Biden’s approval rating mired within the 30s and with nearly 80 percent of voters saying the country is heading within the incorrect direction, all of the ingredients appear to be in place for a Republican sweep within the November midterm elections.

But Democrats and Republicans begin the campaign in a surprisingly close race for control of Congress, in line with the primary Latest York Times/Siena College survey of the cycle.

Overall amongst registered voters, 41 percent said they preferred Democrats to manage Congress compared with 40 percent who preferred Republican control.

Amongst likely voters, Republicans led by one percentage point, 44 percent to 43 percent, reflecting the tendency for the party out of power to enjoy a turnout advantage in midterms.

The outcomes suggest that the wave of mass shootings and the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade have at the least temporarily insulated the Democrats from an otherwise hostile national political environment while energizing the party’s predominantly liberal activist base.

However the confluence of economic problems and resurgent cultural issues has helped turn the emerging class divide within the Democratic coalition right into a chasm, as Republicans seem like making recent inroads amongst nonwhite and working-class voters — perhaps especially Hispanic voters — who remain more concerned concerning the economy and inflation than abortion rights and guns.

For the primary time in a Times/Siena national survey, Democrats had a bigger share of support amongst white college graduates than amongst nonwhite voters — a striking indication of the shifting balance of political energy within the Democratic coalition. As recently because the 2016 congressional elections, Democrats won greater than 70 percent of nonwhite voters while losing amongst white college graduates.

With 4 months to go until the election, it is way too soon to say whether the campaign will remain focused on issues like abortion and gun control long enough for Democrats to avoid a long-expected midterm rout. If it does, a detailed national vote would probably translate to a detailed race for control of Congress, as neither party enjoys a transparent structural advantage within the race. Partisan gerrymandering has barely tilted the map toward Republicans within the House, but Democrats enjoy some great benefits of incumbency and superior fund-raising in key districts.

Recent unfavorable news for Democrats, in the shape of Supreme Court rulings, and a few tragic news nationally might ordinarily mean trouble for the party in power, but that’s not what the outcomes suggest.

The survey began 11 days after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, when cellphones were still buzzing with news alerts concerning the mass shooting in Highland Park, Ailing.

In an open-ended query, those that volunteered that issues related to guns, abortion or the Supreme Court were an important problem facing the country represented about one in six registered voters combined. Those voters preferred Democratic control of Congress, 68 percent to eight percent.

A few of the hot-button cultural issues thought to work to the advantage of Republicans at the start of the cycle, like critical race theory, have faded from the highlight. Only 4 percent of voters combined said education, crime or immigration was an important issue facing the country.

The Times/Siena survey isn’t the primary to suggest that the national political environment has improved for Democrats because the Supreme Court overturned Roe. On average, Democrats have gained about three points on the generic congressional ballot compared with surveys taken beforehand.

Within the wake of the court’s ruling, the poll finds greater public support for legal abortion than previous Times/Siena surveys. Sixty-five percent of registered voters said abortion ought to be mostly or all the time legal, up from 60 percent of registered voters in September 2020.

The proportion of voters who opposed the court’s decision — 61 percent — was just like the share who said they supported Roe v. Wade two years ago.

Democrats are maintaining the loyalty of a vital sliver of predominantly liberal and highly educated voters who disapprove of Mr. Biden’s performance but care more about debates over guns, democracy and the shrinking of abortion rights than the state of the economy.

Voters who said issues related to abortion, guns or threats to democracy were the most important problem facing the country backed Democrats by a large margin, 66 percent to 14 percent.

For some progressive voters, recent conservative policy victories make it hard to remain on the sidelines.

Lucy Ackerman, a 23-year-old graphic designer in Durham, N.C., said Mr. Biden had repeatedly didn’t live as much as election guarantees. She recently registered with the Democratic Socialists of America. Nonetheless, she has committed herself to getting as many Democrats elected this fall as possible.

She says the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe made politics personal: She and her wife married after the choice leaked, out of fear that the court might roll back same-sex marriage rights next.

“The recent events have given me this push to do more,” she said. “I’ve gotten more involved in political efforts locally. I’ve helped sign friends as much as vote.”

The liberal backlash against conservative advances within the court appears to have helped Democrats most amongst white college graduates, who’re relatively liberal and infrequently insulated by their affluence from economic woes. Just 17 percent of white college-educated Biden voters said an economic issue was an important one facing the country, lower than for some other racial or educational group.

Over all, white college graduates preferred Democratic control of Congress, 57-36. Women propelled Democratic strength among the many group, with white college-educated women backing Democrats, 64-30. Democrats barely led amongst white college-educated men, 46-45.

Although the survey doesn’t show an unusually large gender gap, the poll seems to supply some evidence that the court’s abortion ruling may do more to assist Democrats amongst women. Nine percent of ladies said abortion rights was an important issue, compared with 1 percent of men.

The fight for congressional control may be very different amongst the usually less affluent, nonwhite and moderate voters who say the economy or inflation is the most important problem facing the country. They preferred Republican control of Congress, 62 percent to 25 percent, although greater than half of the voters who said the economy was the most important problem also said abortion ought to be mostly legal.

Just 74 percent of the voters who backed Mr. Biden within the 2020 election, but who said the economy or inflation was an important problem, said they preferred Democratic control of Congress. In contrast, Democrats were the alternative of 87 percent of Biden voters who said abortion or guns was an important issue.

The economy could also be helping Republicans most amongst Hispanic voters, who preferred Democrats to manage Congress, 41-38. Although the sample size is small, the finding is consistent with the longer-term deterioration in Democratic support among the many group. Hispanics voted for Democrats by almost a 50-point margin within the 2018 midterms, in line with data from Pew Research, then President Donald J. Trump made surprising gains with them in 2020.

No racial or ethnic group was likelier than Hispanic voters to cite the economy or inflation as an important issue facing the country, with 42 percent citing an economic problem compared with 35 percent of non-Hispanic voters.

Republicans also appear poised to expand their already lopsided advantage amongst white voters and not using a college degree. They back Republicans by greater than a two-to-one margin, 54-23. Even so, nearly 1 / 4 remain undecided compared with just 7 percent of white college graduates.

As less engaged working-class voters tune in, Republicans could have opportunities for extra gains. Historically, the party out of power excels in midterm elections, in no small part by capitalizing on dissatisfaction with the president’s party.

Only 23 percent of undecided voters approved of Mr. Biden’s job performance.

Silvana Read, a licensed nursing assistant who lives outside Tampa, Fla., is one in every of the Hispanic voters whom Republicans will attempt to sway to capitalize on widespread dissatisfaction with Mr. Biden.

An immigrant from Ecuador, she despised Mr. Trump’s comments about women and foreigners, but voted for him because her husband convinced her it might help them financially. Now she and her husband, 56 and 60, blame Mr. Biden for his or her falling 401(k)s.

“My husband, he sees the news on the TV, he says, ‘I don’t think I can retire until 75,’” she said. “We will’t afford to complete paying the mortgage.”

Still, her allegiance to the Republican Party doesn’t extend far beyond Mr. Trump. She offered no preference within the fight for control of Congress.

She doesn’t plan to vote within the midterms.

The Times/Siena survey of 849 registered voters nationwide was conducted by telephone using live operators from July 5-7. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. Crosstabs and methodology can be found here.

Francesca Paris contributed reporting.

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