Apr 16, 2018, 7:00 AM ET

2018 vote margin narrows as Democratic engagement slips (POLL)


A Democratic advantage in the upcoming midterm elections has narrowed in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, with indications of lower engagement among members of the party now out of power in the federal government.

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A 10-point Democratic lead among all adults narrows to 4 points among registered voters and 5 points among those who say they’re both registered and certain to vote; neither of those is statistically significant. In January, by contrast, Democrats held similar margins in all three groups – 13, 12 and 15 points, respectively.

See PDF for full results, charts and tables.

Factors at play include a slide in self-reported registration among Democrats, which is a sign of waning engagement; consolidation among Republicans of their base; and better results for the GOP among less-educated Americans generally, and non-college-educated white women in particular.

Among other results, the poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds more than three-quarters of Americans looking for a congressional candidate who agrees with them on gun policy. Fewer, but still half, call it important for them to back a candidate who shares their view of Donald Trump, and a yet small number, about a third, are looking for a candidate who agrees with them about Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader.

Generic Ballot

The generic ballot -- asking people if they’d vote for the Republican or the Democratic candidate in their congressional district -- is a rough gauge, in part because so many seats are not seriously contested, often due at least in part to gerrymandering. Further, turnout in November is the real question and a longstanding challenge for Democrats, whose voters tend to lag in midterm participation.

Self-reported registration is one indicator as it is less a measure of actual registration than of political engagement. The share of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who report being registered to vote has slipped from 84 percent in November to 79 percent in January and 75 percent now. That contrasts with 87 percent among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, up slightly from 82 percent three months ago.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump addresses the nation on the situation in Syria, April 13, 2018, at the White House in Washington.Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
President Donald Trump addresses the nation on the situation in Syria, April 13, 2018, at the White House in Washington.

Further, among Republican likely voters, 95 percent say they would vote for their party’s candidate, which is up from 89 percent in January and now matches the level among Democrats, 95 percent.

Three months ago, moreover, the two parties ran about evenly among registered voters with no more than a high school diploma, and among white women without college degrees. Now, GOP candidates now lead in both groups, by 11 and 15 points, respectively. That could reflect economic improvement making its way to less-educated, lower-income groups; in a weekly survey by Bloomberg, consumer sentiment was its best in 17 years last week.


Seventy-eight percent of Americans and registered voters alike say it’s important to them to support a candidate who shares their opinion on gun policy, including four in 10 who say it’s “extremely” important. That includes roughly equal numbers on both sides of the issue – whether they prioritize enacting new laws to reduce gun violence or protecting the right to own guns.

On one hand, there are more who emphasize new gun laws; on the other, those focused on protecting gun rights are more likely to say it’s “extremely” important to them to back a candidate who agrees with them, 49 vs. 40 percent among registered voters.

PHOTO: Participants take part in the March for Our Lives Rally in New York on March 24, 2018. AFP/Getty Images
Participants take part in the March for Our Lives Rally in New York on March 24, 2018.

Trump, meanwhile, may be a potential concern for some GOP candidates. His average approval rating at 15 months in office is the lowest on record for any president in polling, dating to the Truman administration. And 52 percent of registered voters say it’s extremely or very important to them to support a candidate who shares their view of Trump, rising to 60 percent of likely voters.

Fifty-four percent of those who approve of Trump are looking for a candidate who agrees with them, a similar share to the 53 percent disapproving of Trump who say the same; the difference is that those who disapprove of the president outnumber those who approve by 10 points among registered voters.

Using another gauge, registered voters who see Trump favorably as a person are 10 points more likely than those who see him unfavorably to seek a candidate who agrees with them. But many more registered voters are unfavorable toward Trump than favorable, which keeps Trump as more of a vulnerability for the GOP.

Republicans have sought to balance that risk by tying Democratic candidates to Pelosi. Thirty-five percent of registered voters in this poll say it’s important to them to support a candidate who shares their view on Pelosi, including 43 percent of those who see her favorably and 38 percent of those who see her unfavorably.

PHOTO: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks about the Omnibus budget deal during a press conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, March 22, 2018. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks about the Omnibus budget deal during a press conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, March 22, 2018.

Overall, she’s seen more unfavorably than favorably by 48-33 percent among registered voters; one in five have no opinion. (This is much less negative than Trump’s 57-36 percent unfavorable-favorable score, albeit with a substantially higher share of don’t knows.) As such, Pelosi’s impact looks like a wash overall – except, potentially, in terms of motivating the Republican base. Among registered voters, 76 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents see Pelosi negatively, surpassing her positive score among Democrats and Democratic leaners by 19 points.


This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone April 8-11, 2018, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,002 adults and 865 registered voters. Results have a margin of sampling error 3.5 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 32-25-35 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt Associates of Rockville, Md. See details on the survey’s methodology here.

News - 2018 vote margin narrows as Democratic engagement slips (POLL)

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  • Dilligaf

    Does nancy look worse than hillary or visa versa

  • pilgrim

    blue wave is a myth. ABC news is motivating the wrong voters.

  • Tom Hayes

    It's not hard to believe that the party who's sole platform since November is to resist the president is having trouble keeping it's members engaged.

  • Angela S

    Who are these people that are picking up the phone? In the days of called ID, I don't know how these poll numbers have any value at all.

  • Bad Wolf

    The Republicans will do fine in the midterms. They will gain about five, maybe more Senate seats, they will likely break even or lose a few House seats and will bring in a more conservative group replacing the retiring House members. This is no surprise. Unemployment is the lowest in most people's living memory. Businesses are thriving. Manufacturing has gone from losing 6,000 jobs a months to adding more than 20,000 jobs a month. Taxes are down and incomes are up. The increased economic growth pays for more than 2/3 of the cost of the cuts alone. Deregulation has made life easier and more predictable (less arbitrary) for just about every business. ISIS is gutted. All good for Republicans. Meanwhile the Democrats do not have any coherent alternative - they cannot decide whether to go all out Communist/AntiFa to appeal to their base or whether to pretend to care about the working class people they have shafted for the entire Obama administration while serving their multinational donors.

    Plus Republicans actually vote in midterms and Democrats stay home to watch The View.

  • yetanother1

    Voter apathy is what the crooks in govt. rely on.

  • Kevin from Wa.

    This is your Winning answer Democrats.......”People want more health care — not less,” Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of the Fairness Project, a left-leaning economic justice group that is helping support the initiative, said in a statement. “They are done with politicians who are not addressing their top concerns, and they are taking action to do something about it.”

  • paddyk

    Voters are tired of both sides.

  • Im_with_the_banned

    If i vote for the republican im voting for higher debt, more war, and less personal freedom. But...if i vote for the democrat im voting for higher debt, more war, and less personal freedom. Decisions decisions decisions.

  • Wintermute

    Every day I wake up I thank God the evil witch is not our President.

  • Gimme__A__break

    Lol the only metric that means anything is the likely voter.

  • RohnertPark1

    I suggest this next election cycle will have much more independent voters as a percent of the whole voting population. They will not be voting along any party line, they will be voting on issues that are important to them. It will be very interesting to see what promises are made to these persons, or what smut they will push to defame the other party candidate.

  • Dave

    The Democrats have a major problem, which they've had (we've had) for decades, and which was exemplified by voting patterns within the last 10 years. Their voters don't come out and vote.

    Think about this. Bernie Sanders is the only Democrat who made a huge, huge point of income inequality and the need to do something to try to help working Americans feel that they haven't been forgotten amid the focus on investment bankers and entertainment superstars. Otherwise, the Democrats have ignored (abandoned is a better description) working Americans.

    What has been the Democrats' biggest issue lately? It's DACA. As worthy as that cause is, let's be clear: the people they've championed in that realm do not vote. If you can't motivate your people to vote, you aren't going to win elections, and if the people to whom you pay the most attention and about whom you care the most are people who don;t or can't vote, you are in a pickle of your own making.

    That's where the Democrats are.

    There are many reasons why the Republicans need to be voted out of office and why they simply need either to rediscover the concept of honor or be discarded. But you can't replace something (however bad) with nothing. And that's the Democrats' dilemma.

  • Squinty Wrinkles

    How is it possible that anybody could "see Trump favorably as a person"?

  • Miles

    Obama won because he gave a positive reason to vote.
    When the only reason to vote is your dislike for the other side, the chances of you voting goes down.
    Democrats really haven't offered positive reasons, just the reality that the current Republicans are killing this country. But most of us don't think the Democrats really govern all that well either.

  • John Springer

    Hmm, less educated? How do you measure that? If it is by degrees , it is not a good yardstick. Like a Master Electrician, or my wife who started a cosmetics manufacturing company and developed products from chemistry self study or maybe the local mechanic making 150k which is common her and requires lots of training.

  • Jackie Johnson

    When Pelosi is the face of the Democratic party, they lose. Why they won't kick her to the side and pick a new person with Charisma can only be attributed to fundraising connections.

  • Gerald Turner

    So what was that dem big anti gun push all about then? Certainly not about getting votes...

  • Soulice

    "and better results for the GOP among less-educated Americans generally, and non-college-educated white women in particular." That group of people is working for a living and would like to keep the money they earn. Someone made a comment the other day that would rally change election results for the good. Move election day so that it is the day before tax filing is due.