Despite more than two-thirds of Americans saying the country is going in the wrong direction, Democrats have surged into the lead on the generic congressional ballot and President Biden’s approval rating has ticked upward as the party makes gains among independent voters and women following the overturn of Roe v. Wade, a new poll released on Thursday indicates.
The Wall Street Journal survey shows that 47% of registered voters would support a Democratic candidate for Congress if the midterm elections were held today. Another 44% said they would support the Republican candidate, while the remaining 9% said they were unsure of their choice or refused to answer.
The same poll showed Republicans with 46% support among registered voters in March, while Democrats had 41% support and 13% of voters said they were unsure.
Most pundits have predicted Republicans will regain control of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate as the Biden administration struggled to control the worst inflation in 40 years and the president’s average approval rating sank as low as 37%.
Democratic gains in the poll were fueled by increased support among independents, women, and younger voters, the Wall Street Journal said. Independents now prefer a Democratic candidate for Congress over a Republican one by 38% to 35%, the survey shows — wiping out a 12-point edge the GOP enjoyed in March.
“Male independents did not really change,” Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio told the newspaper. “Female independents, because of the abortion issue, changed their opinions and their votes.’’
A majority of registered voters — 60% — agree that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, an increase of 5 percentage points since March. More than half of those surveyed — 56% — said the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision striking down Roe v. Wade made them more likely to vote.
Also, white, suburban women — often a deciding factor in national elections — said by a 12-point margin (52% to 40%) that they would back a Democratic candidate over a Republican this time around.
Abortion was also the top issue for 13% of Americans in deciding their vote for Congress, the poll found, trailing only the economy (16%) while leading inflation (11%), border security (7%), and gun violence (3%).
“Republicans were cruising, and Democrats were having a hard time,” said Fabrizio, who conducted the survey along with Democratic pollster John Anzalone. “It’s almost like the abortion issue came along and was kind of like a defibrillator to Democrats.”
Anzalone said the abortion ruling, a series of mass shootings this summer, and the House select committee’s ongoing investigation into former President Donald Trump’s role in last year’s Capitol riot have taken a toll on Republicans.
“On all of those issues, the Republicans were on the wrong side of public opinion,” he said.
Biden’s own approval numbers have rebounded in recent months, reaching 45% in the latest poll — up from 42% in March — even though 54% still disapprove of his job performance.
The president also defeats former President Donald Trump 50% to 44% in a hypothetical matchup, including by 46% to 38% among independents. The two were tied at 45% in a popular vote head-to-head in March.
The WSJ poll wasn’t all good news for the White House, as 68% of Americans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction while just 23% believe the country is on the right track; 62% say rising prices are hurting their household budgets, and 64% believe the economy is in poor or not in good shape.
Almost half of the voters — 49% — say the country is in the midst of a recession, while another 16% predict there will be a recession in the next 12 months.
The survey also found that respondents believe Republicans are the best party to get inflation under control, have a better economic message, and are more able to tackle the deficit.
The poll surveyed 1,313 adults between Aug. 17-25 and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.7 percentage points.