2022 Poll: Democratic lead on midterm ballot nearly disappears as election approaches

The new Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows Republicans gaining ground in the closing weeks of the 2022 midterm campaign, narrowing Democrats’ long-standing lead to just 2 percentage points — their slimmest to date.

When asked which candidate they would vote for in their congressional district if the election were held today, 46% of registered voters now choose the Democrat; 44% pick the Republican.

In August, Democrats were ahead on the so-called generic ballot question by 6 points (45% to 39%). As recently as late September, they were ahead by 4 (45% to 41%).

Now that lead is gone, and the battle for control of Congress is effectively tied. The survey of 1,629 U.S. adults, which was conducted from Oct. 13 to 17, has a margin of error of 2.7% — larger, in other words, than the current gap between the two parties.

Among registered voters who say they will “definitely” vote on Election Day or have voted already, the race is even tighter: 48% side with Democrats and 47% side with Republicans. In early September, Democrats led this group by 3 points (48% to 45%).

A sign reads: Vote Here/Aqui.
A sign at a voting precinct on the first day of early voting in Phoenix, Oct. 12. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

Factor in structural forces that favor Republicans — gerrymandering, Democratic retirements — and it’s no wonder that forecasters have given the GOP increasingly strong odds of flipping the U.S. House in November.

Why are Republicans gaining momentum as the election approaches? Because previously undecided voters are breaking their way.

Over the last three Yahoo News/YouGov polls, Democratic support among registered voters has held steady: 45%, then 45%, then 46%. It’s Republican support that has gone from 39% to 41% to 44%. The number of voters who say they’re “not sure” is shrinking — and more of them have been gravitating toward the GOP than the Dems.

The reasons for this shift are complex. On the one hand, the new Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that President Biden’s job-approval rating among all Americans (43% approve, 51% disapprove) has actually improved over the last three weeks (from 39% approve, 53% disapprove previously). Among registered voters, it’s even better: 47% approve, 51% disapprove (versus 44% approve, 53% disapprove previously).

Those are Biden’s best numbers since April.

But they don’t seem to be boosting his party electorally. The truth is, it’s not swing voters or Republicans who are increasingly likely to say they approve of the president’s performance in office; he’s not winning many converts. Instead, nearly all of the improvement in Biden’s approval rating is coming from voters who say they were already planning to vote Democratic in November.

In August, the number of registered voters who said they preferred a Democrat in their district (45%) was 5 points higher than the number who said they approved of the way Biden was handling his job (40%). Today those numbers are nearly identical (46% and 47%, respectively). In August, 80% of voters who preferred a Democrat in the district also said they approved of Biden’s performance. Today 86% of those voters approve of Biden.

At the same time, voters who already disapproved of the president — mostly Republicans and independents — have grown more supportive of Republicans for the U.S. House. In August, 66% of registered voters who said they disapproved of Biden’s job performance also said they preferred a Republican in their House district. Now that number is a full 10 points higher (76%).

Joe Biden pumps his fist while standing in front of an American flag.
President Biden speaking in Portland, Ore., on Oct. 15. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

In short, voters who have long intended to vote Democratic are becoming more likely to say they approve of the president — while voters who say they disapprove of the president are becoming more likely to actually vote Republican.

That’s a pretty typical midterm dynamic. But for Democrats, the current issue mix isn’t helping matters.

After the Supreme Court’s conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade in late June, Democrats hoped backlash — both on the left and in the center — would counteract inflation worries and perhaps lessen their midterm losses.

And to be sure, there are signs in the latest Yahoo News/YouGov survey that Democrats are doing better than they would have if Roe were still the law of the land.

For instance, a majority of Americans (51%) say either that “abortion should be as legal throughout the U.S. as it was under Roe v. Wade” (31%) or that “there should be no restrictions on abortion in the U.S.” (20%). Just 38%, meanwhile, take the prevailing GOP view that either “all abortions should be illegal throughout the U.S.” (14%) or that “individual states should set their own abortion policies” (24%). Likewise, a full 48% of registered voters say the Republican Party has the “more extreme view on abortion”; just 38% say Democrats are more extreme on the issue.

Abortion rights activists participate in a march.
Abortion rights activists participate in a Women's March in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Reuters)

As a result, the end of Roe continues to motivate Democratic voters. A full third of Americans (33%) say they are “angry” about the court’s decision, including most Democrats (53%). The only other development that generates more anger among all Americans (36%) — and among Dems (59%) — is former President Donald Trump’s effort to “overturn the 2020 election.”

Still, just 9% of Americans say abortion is the “most important issue” to them “when thinking about this year’s election" — down from 12% in May. Just 16% say “democracy.”

In contrast, 34% say "inflation." Nothing else is close.

Even among Democrats, 91% say inflation is either very (61%) or somewhat (30%) important when they're thinking about November. Overall, that’s more than abortion (87%) and the same as democracy (91%).

And that continues to be a problem for Biden’s party. With abortion backlash — and without the looming specter of another Trump bid in 2024 — Democrats might be trailing Republicans on the generic ballot instead of leading narrowly. But as prices remain stubbornly high, it looks like larger forces may be starting to reassert themselves.


The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,629 U.S. adults interviewed online from Oct. 13 to 17, 2022. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2020 presidential vote (or nonvote) and voter registration status. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.7%.