A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll provides Democrats a few welcome numbers, but it's Republicans who end up getting what could end up being the most important takeaways: the voter enthusiasm gap has largely collapsed, President Trump has reached record-high approval among registered voters, and Republicans are trusted by a wider gap than ever over Democrats to handle the all-important issue of the economy.
Democrats once held a sizable enthusiasm over Republicans of 10+ points, but the NBC/WSJ poll found that the important indicator of voter turnout has collapsed to just 4 points: 72% of Democrats are enthused, while 68% of Republicans are eager to vote. "[A]mong all registered voters, 65 percent have high interest — the largest for a midterm electorate dating back to 2006 in the NBC/WSJ poll," NBC reports.
In generic congressional preference — often a poor indicator of electoral results — Democrats hold a 9-point lead among likely voters (7 points among registered voters, down 5 points since September). But as NBC notes, "in the most competitive House battlegrounds — many of which take place on traditionally Republican turf — congressional preference is tied."
Meanwhile, Trump's approval is surging, tracking better in fact than President Obama's at the same point in his presidency. His approval has jumped 3 points in a month to 47% among registered voters, with 49% disapproving. A month ago, 52% disapproved of his handling of the job. That 47% is Trump's "highest rating as president in the NBC/WSJ poll."
Trump performs slightly less well among likely voters, with 45% approval, 52% disapproval.
Another record-breaking number for the poll involves voters' views of the economy. In what NBC notes is "their biggest lead on this question in the poll's history," Republicans now hold a 15-point advantage on the question of which party better handles the economy, which is consistently the most important issue to voters.
A total of 43% of registered voters told pollsters that Republicans handled the economy better, while just 28% said Democrats. The 15-point gap is a point up from the gap pollsters found in August.
NBC provides a breakdown on some of the other issues, including trade (R+17), "handling the Supreme Court nomination process" (R+3), and "changing how Washington works" (R+1). Democrats win on women's interests (D+29), health care (D+18), "looking out for the middle class" (D+8), and immigration (D+4).
Of all the listed issues, more (38%) said the economy than any other issue. The next biggest issue was health care (31%), followed by "changing how things work" (23%), and the middle class (22%) and immigration (22%).
While the chances of Republicans to maintain control of the House appears to have improved dramatically (Real Clear Politics gives Democrats "safely" 205 seats, Republicans 200 seats and lists 30 seats as "toss-ups"), the odds are still highly in the Democrats' favor to take over that chamber of Congress. The Senate, however, is leaning heavily towards Republicans. RCP gives the GOP 50 "safe" seats and Democrats only 44, meaning Democrats must flip one of the Republicans' "safe" seats and win all six of the remaining toss-ups to gain the 51-seat majority.