Independents Flock into GOP Corner as Election Day Nears
Independent voters are increasingly shifting to favor a Republican candidates for the U.S. House, according to two CBS News/YouGov polls conducted over the course of October. In a poll conducted October 12-14, 40% of independent registered voters said they would vote for a Democrat for the House of Representatives, while 38% said they would vote for a Republican (D+2). In an October 26-28 poll, 33% of independents said they would vote for a Democrat, while 49% said they would vote for Republican (R+16). Interactive Polls first noticed the 18-point swing in the GOP’s favor over a mere two weeks.
Other polls yield similar results. In a (progressive) Data for Progress survey of likely voters from October 6-18, 41% of independents said they would vote for a Democrat for Congress, while 40% said they would vote for a Republican (D+1). But when they asked the same question in a survey a few days later (October 26-27), 36% of independents said they would vote for a Democrat, compared to 45% who said they would vote Republican (R+9), a 10-point swing.
Not only do these left-leaning polls show independents moving dramatically towards Republicans, they also show Republicans now commanding a sizable lead among them. Other polls indicate an even larger lead, with an October 25 Insider Advantage poll indicating independent likely voters would rather see Republicans (53%) control Congress than Democrats (33%) by 20 points. In fact, in the Real Clear Politics (RCP) average of polls (the closest thing to a neutral estimate), Republicans lead the generic congressional vote by 2.9 points. Democrats typically need to lead the generic congressional ballot by several points to win the House. By comparison, in 2014 Republicans led the RCP polling average by 2.4%, before leading the final results by 5.7% in increasing their House majority by 13 seats to a whopping 247 (a 30-seat majority).
The overall picture taking shape is one where more independent voters favor Republicans than Democrats in this election cycle. It contrasts sharply with the Democrats’ narrative overlay, which maintains that a Republican victory is a defeat for the democratic process itself. They are trying to paint Republicans as extremists, yet independents seem to believe Democrats are more extreme. How is democracy threatened when a party wins an election by persuading more unaffiliated voters to choose its candidates?
If these results hold, Republicans are likely to gain control of the House of Representatives in the next Congress — and possibly the Senate. RCP estimates the GOP leads in 228 House races while the Democrats lead in 174, and 33 races are “toss-ups” (218 are needed for a majority). The Cook Political Report estimates Republicans lead 211 races while Democrats lead 191, with 33 toss-ups. The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics estimates Republicans lead 218 races while Democrats lead 195, with 22 toss-ups. FiveThirtyEight estimates Republicans lead 219 races while Democrats lead 205, with 11 toss-ups. A GOP victory in the House seems very likely (although up to three dozen individual races will come down to the wire).
This follows the traditional wisdom that the party which controls the White House typically loses seats in the first midterm election, barring extraordinary circumstances. Whether voters are fed up with the party — due to scandals, extremism, or unpopular policies — or simply prefer divided government, this has been the pattern for decades, with few exceptions. Despite cataclysmic predictions that democracy is coming to an end, both major parties continue to rotate in and out of power — a strong indication that the electoral process continues to function as intended.
In fact, preliminary results from early voting in some states show that election security efforts are working exactly as intended. In Georgia, more than 1.6 million votes have already been cast, 36% ahead of the 2018 midterm election. The state endured furious condemnation for an election security measure passed in 2021 — President Biden called it “Jim Crow 2.0” — but now the state deserves an apology. Democrats accused the bill, which made it hard to cheat, of making it hard to vote, too. The results are showing it’s possible to do both.
If measured in the ability of citizens to freely cast ballots to determine their elected officials, “democracy” seems to be doing as well as ever.
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.