The preference of likely voters, two weeks before the election

Linley SandersData Journalist
October 27, 2022, 8:30 PM GMT+0

With the congressional election just under two weeks away, the Democrats hold a slight lead when it comes to likely voters' planned votes for the House of Representatives, with 49% of likely voters saying they will vote for the Democratic Party candidate and 45% saying they will vote for the Republican candidate, according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll. The poll’s margin of error is about 3 percentage points, nearly as large as the Democrats' lead. And last week the parties were virtually tied on this question, showing that national voter preference is a close call and has room to change again before Election Day.

The close race among likely voters nationally plays out differently among certain groups of voters. Men who are likely voters — registered voters who say they will "definitely" or "probably vote," or already have — say that they will vote for the Republican by a margin of 51% to 43%. An even larger share of women who are likely voters say they are voting Democratic: 56% for the Democratic candidate and just 38% for the Republican. This division by gender is as great as it was in the 2020 election exit polls.

There are few people crossing party lines, according to the latest data. Democrats and Republicans are, by and large, voting for their party’s candidates. Women are more likely than men to be Democrats, but among likely voters, women who are Republicans are nearly as likely as Republican men to say they will vote for the Republican candidate (92% vs. 93%). The gender gap, however, persists among Independents: Independent men give Republicans a 13-point lead (37% for the Democrat, 50% for the Republican), while Independent women give Democrats a 7-point edge (46% for the Democrat, 39% for the Republican).

As is usually the case, younger voters are more likely than older voters to plan to vote for Democrats. Likely voters under 45 overwhelmingly favor Democrats for the House of Representatives (64% to 25%). Likely voters who are 45 and older support Republicans by a margin of 10 points (43% for the Democrat, compared to 53% for the Republican). Those are even greater divisions by age than in 2020 exit polls.

Though Democrats are slightly favored by likely voters nationally, a party's national vote share does not directly predict seat outcomes. At times in the past when Democrats have led in the popular national House vote, they did not win control. For many Americans, the expectation is that this year, as well, Democrats won't win the House. Since late April, Republicans consistently have been seen by a greater share of likely voters as the probable winner of House control this November than the share who expect Democrats to win control.

A greater share of likely voters now expects Republicans to capture the Senate than expect Democrats to, in line with expectations earlier this year.

There are political differences in who will vote and how they will vote. Some are related to former President Donald Trump. About half of Republicans say they identify as “MAGA Republicans,” after Donald Trump's 2016 campaign slogan, Make America Great Again. Nearly nine in 10 MAGA Republicans (88%) are likely voters, compared to just 59% of Republicans who do not identify with MAGA. Two-thirds of MAGA Republicans describe themselves as more enthusiastic about voting this year than usual, compared to 40% of Republicans who don't self-identify as MAGA.

Most Republicans (59%) believe Donald Trump really won the 2020 election but it was stolen from him, compared to 10% of Democrats and 29% of Americans overall. Of this group of Republicans who believe the election was stolen, 55% are more enthusiastic about voting this year. Only 14% would even consider voting for someone who accepts the 2020 election results.

There is broad agreement on one thing: American democracy is under threat. Two-thirds (66%) of Americans say it is, and that jumps to 79% among likely voters. Democrats and Republicans are equally likely to see a threat, but the threats they see are different. Democrats who believe democracy is under threat are most likely to name the lack of acceptance of election results by some candidates (79%), political extremism (78%), and gerrymandering (61%) as threats they have in mind when thinking of democracy under threat, with corruption (59%) a close fourth. Republicans are most likely to cite votes not being counted correctly (76%), ineligible voters casting ballots (72%), and corruption (70%).

–Taylor Orth and Carl Bialik contributed to this article

Polling by the Economist/YouGov was conducted on October 22 - 25, 2022 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this Economist/YouGov poll.