Regular readers were not on board with my suggestion as to why Democrats beat the polls. Well, here’s some more evidence for my hypothesis–‘Right track’ polling numbers jump following GOP’s lackluster midterm showing:
As the ‘red wave’ narrative took hold in the Beltway, many prognosticators cited the country’s abysmal right track/wrong track numbers as evidence Democrats were destined for heavy losses.
It’s true that, heading into Election Day, the numbers were spectacularly bad, according to Civiqs tracking of the issue. Just 21% of registered voters said the country was on the “right track” compared to 68% saying it was on the “wrong track.”
But the assumption among myriad old-school analysts that all the negativity would specifically pull Democrats under turned out to be incorrect.
In fact, everyone, including Democratic voters and leaners, was dissatisfied with the state of the country, and they didn’t necessarily fault Democrats for the sorry state of affairs.
Since Election Day, right track numbers have made a small-but-notable rebound, from 21% just before Election Day to 28% now. Wrong track numbers have similarly fallen 5 points in the same time period, from 68% to 63%. Here’s Civiqs tracking of right track/wrong track views over the past 12 months.
It’s a smallish group, but big enough to have provided the margin of victory in the recent election: Some of the ‘wrong track’ people were, like me, primarily concerned about MAGA madness and the Dobbs decision.
I don’t think this is evidence of your theory (“Democrats did better than expected because the way Biden’s approval number is measured ignores the existence of Progressives who wish Biden were different–but are never going to vote for Republicans.”) at all. Or rather, it could just as easily be evidence of the theory that “Democrats did better than expected because the way Biden’s approval number is measured ignores the existence of [Centrists] who wish Biden were different–but are never going to vote for [Trumpists].” (for what it’s worth, I suppose those two theories are not mutually exclusive of one another, and that both could be true)
As I read the “right track” polling, it could just as easily be that the country was happy to see divided congress, and that such a prospect could force Congress to look more closely at bi-partisan compromises (one of the top wish-list items for most centrist/moderates). Recent headlines about bi-partisan votes in Congress have also been making the rounds since election day. See e.g. https://www.politico.com/news/2022/11/16/congress-sends-first-weed-bill-to-biden-00068082 (“The Senate passed a bill designed to expand medical marijuana research on Wednesday by unanimous consent.”) and https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2022/11/16/mitt-romney-joins-bipartisan/ (“A bipartisan majority in the U.S. Senate — with 12 Republicans, including Utah’s Sen. Mitt Romney, joining all 50 Democrats — voted 62-37 to begin debate on the Respect for Marriage Act, signaling the legislation is likely headed for approval in the chamber later this week.”). Whether it is a genuine change in the political climate or just window dressing is yet to be seen. But those sorts of headlines in the wake of an election that didn’t really rock the boat are catnip for centrist moderates and could very well signal a “right track” poll adjustment.
That said, some of our disagreement on this may just be “heated agreement.” After all, I think most centrists/moderates, myself included, would say that they were “primarily concerned about MAGA madness and the Dobbs decision” like you.
Consider the Kentucky vote re abortion. Kentucky has gone red in every presidential election for 20 years, and hasn’t had a majority of presidential votes go blue since 1976. https://www.270towin.com/states/Kentucky. But those very same red state Kentucky voters just rejected a ballot measure aimed at denying constitutional protection for abortion rights. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/kentucky-voters-reject-constitutional-amendment-on-abortion. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that Kentucky suddenly became a “liberal” or “progressive” state. It seems much more plausible that the MAGA movement is losing steam and that the political center is gaining steam. See also Georgia Senate and Governor race results.
The million dollar question, for me, is what to make of DeSantis.