11/06/2006 - A nationwide Pew Research Center survey finds voting intentions shifting in the direction of Republican congressional candidates in the final days of the 2006 midterm campaign. The new survey finds a growing percentage of likely voters saying they will vote for GOP candidates. However, the Democrats still hold a 48% to 40% lead among registered voters, and a modest lead of 47%-43% among likely voters.
The narrowing of the Democratic lead raises questions about whether the party will win a large enough share of the popular vote to recapture control of the House of Representatives. The relationship between a party's share of the popular vote and the number of seats it wins is less certain than it once was, in large part because of the increasing prevalence of safe seat redistricting. As a result, forecasting seat gains from national surveys has become more difficult.
The survey suggests that the judgment of undecided voters will be crucial to the outcome of many congressional races this year. As many as 19% of voters now only lean to a candidate or are flatly undecided. The Democrats hold a 44% to 35% lead among committed voters. But the race is more even among voters who are less strongly committed to a candidate; those who only lean to a candidate divide almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats (5% lean Republican/4% lean Democrat).
Republican gains in the new poll reflect a number of late-breaking trends. First, Republicans have become more engaged and enthused in the election than they had been in September and October. While Democrats continue to express greater enthusiasm about voting than do Republicans, as many Republican voters (64%) as Democratic voters (62%) now say they are giving quite a lot of thought to the election. About a month ago, Democratic voters were considerably more likely than GOP voters to say they were giving a lot of thought to the election (by 59%-50%). As a result, Republicans now register a greater likelihood of voting than do Democrats, as is typical in mid-term elections.
The Republicans also have made major gains, in a relatively short time period, among independent voters. Since early this year, the Democratic advantage in the generic House ballot has been built largely on a solid lead among independents. As recently as mid-October, 47% of independent voters said they were voting for the Democratic candidate in their district, compared with 29% who favored the Republican. Currently, Democrats lead by 44%-33% among independent voters.
Read the full report Republicans Cut Democratic Lead in Campaign's Final Days on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.