Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Voter Desire for Democratic Congress at Highest Mark Since 2008

  • 39 percent in new poll want Republicans to maintain control
  • Democrats more engaged than Republicans ahead of mid-terms

Heading into the 2018 mid-term elections, half of registered U.S. voters said they would prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, the biggest advantage for the party in congressional preference surveys since 2008.

Thirty-nine percent of registered voters polled said Republicans who currently control Congress should remain in charge, compared with 50 percent who said Democrats should control, according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday.

Democrats also showed an “intensity advantage” going in the midterms. Some 59 percent said they have a high level of interest in the 2018 mid-term elections compared with 49 percent of Republicans, the poll showed.

The new figures come almost a year into Donald Trump’s four-year term as president, and follow the upset of Republican Roy Moore in the Dec. 12 special election for a Senate seat in overwhelmingly Republican Alabama.

Democrats last held both a double-digit lead in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling series and reached 50 percent on the “congressional preference” question in September 2008, two months before voters elected Democrat Barack Obama to the White House and maintained a Democratic majority in both the Senate and the House, NBC said.

PollDemocrat AdvantageControl of Congress
2017 (December)+11%Republican, both
2016+3%Republican, both
2014+1%Democrat, Senate;
Republican, House
2012+5%Democrat, Senate; Republican, House
2010-2%Democrat, both
2008+14%Democrat, both
2006+10%Republican, both

Alabama voters elected Democrat Doug Jones in the special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It was the first election of a Democrat to the Senate since 1992 in Alabama, a state Trump won with 62 percent of the vote in 2016.

In the NBC/WSJ poll looking ahead to the 2018 Congressional races, Republicans held a 2 percentage-point edge among white voters in preference for party control and a 12 percentage-point advantage with white voters without a college degree. But among voters ages 18 to 34, the preference for Democrats was 69 percent to 21 percent, and among women voters it was 54 percent to 34 percent, the poll found. Democrats also led Republicans among all male voters and among seniors.

Trump’s job approval rating was 41 percent among all adults polled, up three percentage points from October, while 56 percent of Americans disapproved.

The 48 percent who strongly disapproved of Trump’s performance outnumber the 24 percent who said they strongly approved, according to NBC. That could help explain the intensity gap for Democrats going into the mid-terms.

Midterm elections typically see lower voter turnout than years when a presidential race is also held. The party of the sitting president often loses seats in Congress in those off-year elections.

The poll of 900 adults was conducted Dec. 13-15 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points. Among the 736 registered voters included the poll, the margin of error was plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

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