This week, Siena College/New York Times poll showed President Biden an approval rating of just 33 percent, a result so bad that it sparked speculation, including from outside respectfully – on whether he will run again in 2024. The Siena/New York Times number is near the bottom of the polls consensus, but Biden’s number approval rating in our average survey – about 39 percent – nevertheless historically low number.
However, the same poll showed head to head race for Congress. Democrats led by 1 percentage point among registered voters on which party voters prefer over controlled Congress, and lagged by 1 percentage point among likely voters.
What to do with this apparent discrepancy? How much is the president’s approval rating actually value for predicting the results of the Congress?
In terms of reduction, the answer is that there is fairly strong relationship. If you didn’t know anything about the race for Congress, you’d expect the unpopular president’s party to lose seats. And indeed, this is likely to happen this year as well. Republicans are the favorite 87 percent of the time to take control of the House of Representatives. according to the deluxe version of our forecast. Senate remains much closer to the drawbut it has more associated with poor Republican candidates than anything Democrats do well.
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But predicting the number of lost seats in Congress based on the approval rating of the president will not work. enough question that interests us from the point of view of forecasting. Rather, we want to know how important a president’s approval rating is. given all the other information we have about the race. In other words, is Biden’s bad approval already “entrenched” in the general congressional ballot and individual race polls in the House and Senate? Or is there reason to believe that the position of the Democrats will worsen before November?
The statistical answer is that mostly baked in. Warning: The following paragraphs will be a bit technical. If you need a more intuitive answer, please skip to the items in bold below.
how our model solves this problem is to look at every congressional race since 1990 and evaluate how predictable the movement on the general ballot was based on the underlying conditions we sometimes call “fundamental”. Specifically, the factors he looks at include the president’s approval rating, the outcome of previous congressional elections, whether the elections are midterms, and the degree of political polarization. (Times of high political polarization, like now, will tend to cause less wild swings in races for Congress because there are fewer swing voters.)
I do agree that Dems’ energy on abortion flattens the intermediate equation: silver
Right now, these “fundamentalists” are expecting the Democrats to end up losing the popular vote in the House of Representatives by about 8 points, which would be a terrible outcome for the party and most likely lead to its loss in both houses of Congress. By comparison, if Biden had a break-even rating rather than a gap of about 17 points, “basic principles” would predict that the Democrats would lose the popular vote by about 4.5 points, which would still mean almost certain doom in the House of Representatives. but it may be enough for them to save the Senate.
However, the model also maps these “underpinnings” to the current state of affairs. Democrats right now footprint in our overall average congressional ballot poll – proxy for the popular vote of the House of Representatives – by about 2 points. But in reality, it looks more like a 4-point deficit among likely voters, as Republicans are likely to have a turnout advantage in November. Our model takes this into account, but the model also takes into account factors other than the general vote when predicting the outcome of the House vote, and when we take these factors into account, our model predicts that the Democrats will lose the popular vote by almost 6 points, not far from what “basics” show.
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However, even if the gap were larger, the “underlying principles” would not end up with as much weight in the model. The reason is simply that even at this fairly early stage in the cycle, the general ballot (at least if you properly adjust it to account for likely voters) and other indicators directly related to the current election have historically been more reliable predictors than the Fundamentals “. The model does suggest that conditions for Democrats will get a little worse, but in reality, not much.
So what is the intuition behind this? Here are a few factors to keep in mind:
one. Voters have good reasons not to approve Biden, not wanting Republicans in Congress
When your approval rating falls below 30, you have lost the confidence of not only the majority of swing voters, but also some members of your own party. A Siena/New York Times poll, for example, found that Biden only a 70 percent approval rating, even among Democrats. However, 90 percent Democrats in the same poll prefer Democratic control of Congress, compared to 4 percent who want the Republican Party in power.
One of the Democrats’ concerns is that these disgruntled voters won’t show up. However, there is little reason to expect them to vote Republican if they do. BUT many of them think Biden is too old — a concern shared by many independent voters as well — but that’s more of a factor for 2024 than Congressional preferences for 2022.
And for many questions abortion to LGBTQ rights to voting integrity 2020 Republicans are taking far-right, partisan stances that have little appeal to swing voters and may even encourage discontented Democrats to show up. Parties generally pay a fine for ideological extremism. In other words, although the Democrats also accepted unpopular positions of the left on many issues, Republicans are not as willing to capitalize on high inflation and a poor electoral environment for Democrats as a more moderate, less Trumpovian version of the party might be.
2. It is usually better to trust a direct indicator than an indirect one.
It’s just a good principle of statistical analysis. Once you have a direct measure of the quantity you are interested in, there is little need for a proxy or indirect measure.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re trying to estimate home sales in – I don’t know – Indianapolis. You can think of some clever ways to achieve this. You could drive around the city and count the number of “FOR SALE” signs. Or you can track the number of clicks on Zillow and other websites that list homes for sale. But none of that matters, because selling a house can be directly measuredalbeit with some delay before reporting.
Similarly, if you are interested in races for Congress and ask voters how they are going to vote for Congress, as well as how they feel about the president, congressional voter preference is a direct measure and one that should be more reliable. Frankly, it’s presumptuous to assume otherwise and distrust a voter who says he disapproves of Biden but wants the Democrats to stay at the head of Congress.
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3. Biden and the Democrats weren’t that popular from the start
in national exit poll in November 202052% are positive about Biden, while 46% are negative. That’s significantly better than his numbers now, and Biden won a fairly comfortable victory in the popular vote. But it also wasn’t the broad mandate that, say, former President Barack Obama had in 2008, which was accompanied by numbers of approval and favors that originally took off in the 60s and 70s. What’s more, the Democrats entered Obama’s first term with 257 seats in the House of Representatives, much more than the 222 seats they held after the 2020 election.
Part of the reason the 2010 midterm elections were so terrible for Democrats was that they had a long way to go before they became as popular as a party could be in contemporary American politics. Democrats don’t have that problem in 2022 because they weren’t very popular to begin with. They barely held on to the House.
So while there may have been enough goodwill towards Biden to overcome the hump in 2020 — and much of that goodwill has now evaporated — the conditions are not necessarily what different than two years ago. Main parties both are unpopular, there are few, if any, national political figures, and the country is highly polarized. Moreover, with unpopular former President Donald Trump potentially going to announce bid for 2024 soonhe can also be a factor in the race – maybe something that helps the Democrats.
4. So far, presidential approval and the race for Congress have diverged, not converged.
Finally, I’d like to point out that if you had predicted a few months ago that the congressional and Biden polls would converge, you would be wrong. Since May 1, Biden’s approval rating has dropped by about 9 points:
And yet the general bulletin remained virtually unchanged:
Instead, as voters gathered more information about the race, they began to make more distinctions between what they thought of Biden and what they would like to see in Congress. Perhaps this trend will reverse. But “fundamentalists”—analysts who believe that the race for Congress is predictable based on presidential approval and other prerequisites—have been wrong so far.
FIX (July 15, 2022 11:06 AM): A previous version of this article calculated the change in Biden’s approval rating from May 1, 2021, not May 1, 2022. This calculation has been updated to reflect the change in Biden’s approval rating since May 1, 2022.