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From Voter Enthusiasm to the Economy, NBC News Poll Has Good News for Republicans

Carolyn Kaster

As we get closer to the November midterm elections, polls continue to show good news for the Republican Party, which remains very much favored to win control of the House. Even those once hesitant to admit as much have come around to acknowledge the writing on the wall. 

On Sunday, NBC News released another poll on the midterm elections, which finds voters evenly split regarding which party they prefer to be in charge of Congress. Regarding registered voters, 47 percent prefer Democrats, while 46 percent prefer Republicans. With likely voters, though, 48 percent prefer Republicans, while 47 percent prefer Democrats. 

While Mark Murray's write-up for NBC News notes this lead is "well within the survey's margin of error," it's worth emphasizing that other polls have Republicans up. RealClearPolitics (RCP), for instance, has Republicans with a +1.9 lead overall, with some polls even showing a lead of +5, such as Emerson, and +6, such as Monmouth and Harvard-Harris. 

The good news for Republicans also applies to Murray's headline, emphasizing in part "sky-high interest." From Murray's write-up:

For Republicans, the positive signs are that Biden’s approval among independents and swing-state voters is in the 30s and the low 40s, that the GOP once again holds the enthusiasm advantage and that Republicans lead in congressional preference among the smaller set of likely voters, 48% to 47%, although that’s well within the survey’s margin of error.

Even Chuck Todd acknowledged these positives on Sunday's "Meet the Press." Todd highlighted, "You will see that among likely voters, Republicans have an advantage, and among the final group of persuadable voters, Republicans have the advantage. That is why it feels as if the wind has shifted a little bit here." Again, keep in mind that "the wind has shifted a little bit here" is coming from the naysayers. Many of us were confident throughout that Republicans would take control of at least the House.

"Going further here, this interest in the election. We told you, it's high on both sides. This 69 percent number for Democrats is astonishing. It's 78 percent among Republicans. That is an extra astonishing number, if you will," Todd continued. 

More good news for Republicans, which was not mentioned in the excerpt above, is the findings on the economy. Just 38 percent approve of Joe Biden's handling of the economy, while 57 percent disapprove. 

When asked "if you could send one message with your vote this year so the people who win the election know what you mean with your vote, in a phrase," 14 percent chose "Fix The Economy/Reduce The Cost Of Living." Fourteen percent also chose "Be More Effective/Productive/Do More." Further, 50 percent believe the "economy will get worse," while just 20 percent believe it "will get better." More so believe it "will stay about the same," with 26 percent saying so than those who believe it will improve. 

As NBC News has had a habit of doing so in the past, Murray highlights how "threats to democracy" is the top voter issue for the third straight time. That has been scrutinized at length in past polls, as Matt and I highlighted when it came to that first poll. 

While 20 percent chose "threats to democracy" as their first choice, and 30 percent did as their combined first and second choice, the poll is broken down so that top economic issues, which have more support, are separated. 

Nineteen percent chose "jobs and the economy" as their first choice, with 35 percent doing so as their combined choice. "Cost of living" had 16 percent support, with a combined 29 percent. Murray also does not mention how "jobs and the economy" have greater interest this month than last. 

Todd did address the economy on Sunday, pointing out, "We've got some all-time midterm highs that should serve as red flags for the Democrats." This includes the 71 percent who say the country is on the wrong track, Biden's disapproval on the issue at 57 percent, and the 50 percent who say the economy is going to get worse in the next year. 

RCP has Biden's overall approval on the economy from a collection of polls around that same number, at 38.9 percent, while 58 percent disapprove. 

Past midterm elections are a good indicator, especially given that the president's party tends to lose seats during his first midterm election. This is especially when it comes to low approval ratings. Biden is still underwater, as 45 percent approve while 52 percent disapprove. For reference, Todd referenced how that number is two points lower than Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump in 2010 and 2018, which he acknowledged were "wave elections against the party in the White House."

In 2010, Democrats lost 63 seats in the House, while Republicans lost 40 seats in the House in 2018. 

This year, there's even more enthusiasm than ever for a midterm election. Compared to past elections, a majority, at 57 percent, said these November congressional elections are "more important" than previous ones. Thirty-seven said it was "equally important," and just 6 percent said it was "less important."

When asked about their interest in this year's election, from 1 to 10, with 10 being the most interested, 63 percent said a 10. The next highest response was the 11 percent, who said an 8. Seven percent each said their interest was at a 9 or a 7.

Todd addressed this as well, with how they had a "record 70 percent of voters saying that interest in this election is at 9 or 10," higher than in 2010, 2014, and 2018. "And what's significant about 2018? It was the highest midterm turnout in 100 years. This indicates we're going to be even higher than that," he said. 

Speaking of Biden being underwater, Murray actually frames the president's 45 percent as part of the good news for Biden, as well as the supposed importance of the "threats to democracy" issue:

On Democrats' side, President Joe Biden’s approval rating remains steady at 45%, while congressional preference continues to be relatively even (with 47% of registered voters preferring Democrats to control Congress, versus 46% who want Republicans in charge) and “threats to democracy” are voters’ No. 1 issue for the third straight NBC News poll.

If that's all he has, it's really not looking good for Democrats. 

This poll was conducted October 14-18, with 1,000 registered voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.10 percentage points. 

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