Who gave Democrats the edge on the generic ballot?

Following the same people over time, FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos tracking unpacks the people and issues driving previously uncommitted Democratic voters to the midterms.

The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Senior Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
  • James Diamond Senior Research Manager, Public Affairs
  • Johnny Sawyer Research Manager, US, Public Affairs
  • Charlie Rollason Research Manager, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, August 2, 2022

Since May 2022, Republicans have lost a slight edge on the generic ballot. Analysis of the FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos tracking poll suggests that following the Dobbs decision, a segment of Biden’s 2020 base who were previously uninvested in the midterms now say they are likely to vote for a Democratic candidate. Though, this development in the generic Congressional ballot does not mean Democrats are likely to hold on to control of the House of Representatives, considering Republican advantages in redistricting.

change in voters

Still, of those who became certain Democratic voters in July, nearly three in five (58%) identify as female, and over two in five (44%) are people of color. Compared to Biden’s remaining uncommitted base, these Democratic “switchers” are also more likely to cite abortion as their main issue (35% among “switchers” vs. 26% “uncommitted”).

Compare concerns about abortion to inflation, the main issue for most Americans, and it strongly looks like the repeal of Roe has pushed these voters into the electorate. Democratic “switchers” are more likely to consider inflation a worry (48%) compared to people who have been Democratic voters all along (39%). However, these “switchers” are less likely than the remaining uncommitted block of Biden supporters (58%) to say inflation is a problem.

who changed and main issue

Additionally, since May 2022, abortion and crime/gun violence has increased the most as a worry among Democratic “switchers.” From the first wave to the third, Democratic concern about abortion increased by 27 points, and worry about crime/gun violence increased by 19 points. After those two issues, political extremism registers the third largest uptick in worry, but that issue has increased by a much smaller magnitude, only moving by 5 points.

main issue over time among switchers

With the overturn of Roe v. Wade and recent mass shootings at Uvalde and Highland Park, this analysis suggests that abortion and crime/gun violence are issues motivating parts of Biden's 2020 base who were previously uncommitted to participating in the midterms. As of now, Republicans have lost their slight edge over Democrats on the generic ballot. Though, Republican advantages with redistricting make it unlikely that Democrats will hold onto the House. The next wave of this FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll will show whether this shift remains or whether Republicans have regained their edge since last month.

Links to previous releases:

Washington, DC, July 13, 2022

The 2022 midterms have narrowed to a rough parity between Democrats and Republicans, following a significant Republican advantage in May. This development in the generic Congressional ballot from our FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos election program does not mean Democrats are likely to hold on to control of the House of Representatives, considering Republican advantages in redistricting. However, it does suggest that, following the overturn of Roe vs. Wade, much of the enthusiasm-advantage Republicans enjoyed up to this point has been reduced.

Generic ballot trended

Earlier in the spring, Democrats struggled to engage Biden's 2020 base. Now, segments of Biden's 2020 base, who previously were not invested in the midterms, are more firmly supporting Democrats in the fall, driving this change in the generic ballot. At the same time, Republican support remains mostly the same.

Because our FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll is a panel study, interviewing the same individuals each month, this change from May to now represents a real change of opinion and is not an artifact of who is in the survey sample.

Notably, we are showing the generic ballot preferences among all Americans instead of projecting a likely voter population. Considering only 35 to 40% of the American adult population votes in midterm elections, we feel this is a more illuminating depiction of public sentiments.

Composition of sample

Next week will look more closely at these voting blocs to see how their concerns and issues may have changed, shaping the race ahead. We will also continue to follow whether Democrats retain these gains or if Republicans reestablish the lead as we get closer to the election.

Washington, DC, June 30, 2022

In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade—eliminating the constitutional right to abortion—we are revisiting where public opinion on abortion was before this decision. Given the hyper-partisan nature of the topic, we explore what Democrats think Republicans think about the topic and each other. We also look at how the leak of the draft decision impacted people’s personal worries about abortion and how that competes with their other concerns.

Partisans not good at guessing the other side’s point of view

Most Americans (74%) agree that abortion should be legal in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

Yet, despite decisive majority support, both Democrats and Republicans underestimate the average support the opposing party has for abortion under these conditions, suggesting that louder voices against abortion may dampen perceptions of support for abortion nationwide. On average, Democrats believe that only 30% of Republicans support abortion under these circumstances, while Republicans believe that only 68% of Democrats support legal abortion. In reality, Republican support is 34 points higher (at 64%), and Democratic support is 21 points higher (at 89%) than is perceived by the opposing party.


Personal worries spike, but inflation and gun violence still more important

Following the leaked draft decision to overturn Roe, personal worries about abortion rose significantly for all women except Trump voters. For most groups of men, personal worries about abortion remained relatively stable pre- and post-SCOTUS leak. Personal concern about abortion only rose among male Biden voters who are certain to turnout in 2022.


Still, at the time this poll was conducted, other issues like inflation and gun violence significantly outranked abortion as a personal concern for everyone, regardless of their gender, 2020 vote choice, or likelihood to vote in the midterms. After the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings, personal concern about gun violence rose significantly.

Whether abortion will be a motivating issue, helping Democrats turnout Biden’s 2020 base, remains an open question. Before the official overturn of Roe, abortion was a growing concern among Biden’s female 2020 base and women who did not vote or didn’t vote for a two-party candidate in 2020. Will the official end of Roe encourage these people to participate in the midterms?

It is too early to say, but our July survey may begin to unpack some of these dynamics.

    Washington, DC, June 16, 2022

    Over the last month, Americans have had a number of things to keep them up at night. The FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos Midterm Tracking Project finds that, at this moment, inflation plus crime and gun violence are the top two worries the country has going into summer 2022. Other news events of the past month, such as abortion or election security, do not appear to have claimed as much space in Americans’ minds.

    The FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos Midterm poll is fielded every month with the same sample of Americans. Our first wave, in early May, found that inflation was a main worry for more than half of Americans. Every other topic, from immigration to climate change to race and racism, was a concern for a smaller subset of Americans. Our June survey, conducted after the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, finds that concerns about crime and gun violence—now a clear second to inflation—have doubled in the last month.

    chartWorry about crime and gun violence is present across the political spectrum. It’s most widely felt among Americans who supported Biden in 2020 but are not certain Democratic voters this year. This suggests, unlike other second-tier issues, it has broken past the very politically engaged to affect a larger swath of Americans. Other issues in the news recently, such as abortion or election security, have not seen the same breakthrough in public consciousness.

    chart 2We have been asked, why do some issues break through and others do not? Part of the answer is that people worry about what they hear about. Looking at our survey data, the top worries for Americans were also issues they report hearing about a lot in the media. But that is not a perfect answer, with multiple issues like COVID or abortion that receive significant media attention but are not in the top-tier of public concerns.

    chart 3Our data suggests the missing link is a sense of personal stake or risk. In addition to asking about people’s worries and what news they’ve seen, our FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll also asks Americans what they think the main issues facing America are. Here we find a near perfect correlation between what people are worried about on an individual level and what they think America should be dealing with.

    chart 4What does this mean moving forward, particularly as the January 6th committee hearings unfold? Will the findings from the committee reshape American public opinion?

    The question we should be asking is whether these committee hearings make Americans feel personally involved. If so, we will expect to see another shift in our July survey. But, if Americans see the committee's revelations as something distant from their day-to-day lives, it will be business as usual in America.

    Washington, DC, June 7, 2022

    This week we take a look at the main issues worrying different voting blocs in our FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos May 2022 study data. First off, it’s important to remember this data is from early May, before the Roe leak and the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. At that time, Americans were most concerned about inflation. Beyond that, there is less agreement on what the top issues are, especially between committed Democratic voters and the remaining uncommitted Biden base.

    Inflation is the main issue, though Dems are less unified here

    Inflation is the biggest issue on Americans’ minds right now. Currently, half of Americans (51%) are personally worried about inflation. This large-scale concern about rising prices is present across party lines, ranking as a top three issue for each voting bloc.

    Though, breaking the data down further, some differences by party emerge. Republicans, regardless of how certain they are to vote in the midterms, are much more unified in their feelings about inflation, while Democrats are more divided.

    For example, nearly half (48%) of the people who voted for Biden in 2020 but are not committed to voting in 2022 are worried about rising costs. Compare that to just one in three (31%) certain Democratic voters. This 17-point difference suggests that the Democratic voting blocs may be less aligned on concerns about inflation than the Republican ones.

    Inflation issue

    What the culture war looks like in the main issue

    Aside from inflation, the top issues among certain voters seem to be culture war topics. Among Democrats, both certain voters and uncommitted Biden voters consider climate change (40% vs. 28%, respectively) and political extremism (54% vs. 33%, respectively) as top issues. But among the committed Democratic voters, these issues out-run inflation while among the uncommitted Biden base, inflation remains number one.

    Republicans are worried about immigration, election security, and the government budget and debt.  However, both committed Republican voters and the uncommitted Trump base are relatively in alignment with the issue hierarchy, even if the committed voters are a little more invested in some of these culture war topics.

    Swing voters favor Republicans in Congress

    As our other analysis has shown, Republicans have a small advantage among swing voters this cycle. Notably, the base for swing voters this wave remains low, since they make up only a small portion of the American public overall. Still, our data suggests that swing voters are characterized by having a poor opinion of both Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Additionally, they do not think highly of Democrats in Congress but are warmer towards Republicans.


    Next week, we’ll start updating our analysis with our June wave of data from the FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos Midterm program.

    Washington, DC, May 31, 2022


    Last week, we identified the share of Americans falling into seven potential voting blocs, defined by their participation in the 2020 presidential election, who they voted for in 2020, and their self-reported likeliness to vote in the 2022 midterms. This week, we explore the demographic makeup of these blocs. Our FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos May 2022 study data shows us that Democrats are struggling to turn out younger, Black, and Hispanic voters at rates comparable to Biden’s 2020 performance.


    Democrats continue to perform best with younger voters while the core of Republican strength is Generation X. However, with older Americans continuing to vote at higher rates than younger, Republican’s advantage with these voters is helping drive their advantage.

    Gen Z has the highest share of habitual non-voters (58%) compared to any other generation. Of those intending to vote, far more indicate they will vote for Democrats than Republicans (9% vs. 2%). Gen Z also has a relatively higher concentration of swing voters, primarily composed of young people who did not (or could not) take part in the 2020 election.

    Among Millennials, almost half (49%) are habitual non-voters. Among the rest, Democrats have a small lead over Republicans among committed voters (11% to 8%) but are struggling to attract a large bloc (18%) who voted for Biden in 2020 but are on the sidelines so far this year.

    The Republicans have a lead over the Democrats among Gen Xers that indicate they are certain to vote in November (16% vs. 12%). Still, a large segment (18%) voted for Trump in 2020 but are sitting out the midterms at this point.

    Voting intent among boomers is divided equally across Democrats and Republicans (20% each). However, Democrats are having a harder time turning out their base than Republicans, with 18% of boomers having voted for Biden now sitting out the midterm compared to the 15% that supported Trump and are now uncommitted.

    Slide 1

    Race and Ethnicity

    Republicans continue to hold a sizable advantage with white voters, particularly white non-college voters. With Black and Hispanic voters currently less likely to participate in this year’s election, Democrats’ advantage with those groups have not been strong enough to carry through.

    Six in ten Hispanic Americans are habitual non-voters. Of those that say they are certain to vote in the midterms, Democrats (8%) have a narrow advantage over Republicans (6%). This represents a more dramatic cooling of Biden’s base than of Trump’s, with 17% saying they voted for Biden and are now uncommitted to the midterms.

    Nearly one in five (19%) Black Americans indicate they are certain to vote for a Democrat in November compared to the just 1% who intend to vote for Republicans. Though positive on the surface for Democrats, it masks the fact that another 30% voted for Biden in 2020 but have not committed to voting in the midterms.

    Essentially half of white Americans that voted for Biden and Trump are certain to vote Democratic and Republican, respectively. This still translates into a larger vote intent for Republicans (19% vs. 15%) and a larger pool to draw from come November (19% vs. 14%).


    Democrats are outperforming Republicans among urban white voters (21% vs. 15%), and Republicans are drastically outperforming Democrats among rural white voters (23% vs. 9%). While Republicans are also outperforming Democrats among suburban whites (19% vs. 14%), these figures represent a roughly even share of 2020 voters for both parties.

    White voters with less than a Bachelor’s degree favor Republican candidates by a more than two-to-one ratio (21% vs. 9%). While this was also the case in 2020, Democrats have experienced a deeper decline than Republicans among their base within this demographic looking ahead to 2022. As in 2020, more white voters with a college degree intend to vote for the Democrats (23%) than the Republicans (16%).

    slide 3


    As we discussed last week, Republicans appear to have locked-in a larger share of Trump’s base than the Democrats have Biden’s. Digging deeper into how this plays out demographically, the story largely holds.

    These early results indicate trouble for the Democrats among younger, Black, and Hispanic voters, where the party is seeing the steepest declines in the share that turned out for Biden in 2020, but now plan to sit out the midterms. Next week, we will look more at attitudes and priorities among these voting blocs to potentially explain these gaps in participation.

    Washington, DC, May 24, 2022


    The FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos 2022 tracking program suggests that Republicans are entering the 2022 midterms with an advantage. Republicans are up two points on the generic Congressional ballot when looking at all Americans. Among Americans who say they are certain to vote, Republicans are up five points. Republicans hold this advantage because they are doing a better job of holding on to Trump voters than Democrats to Biden voters. Additionally, Republicans are also attracting a small number of Americans who are disaffected with both parties.


    Turnout trends

    The two-to-five point Republican advantage on the generic ballot would suggest that Republicans are poised to take control of the House of Representatives this November, in line with historical patterns where incumbent parties tend to lose midterms. Rather than asking about specific matchups, we are asking Americans if they plan to vote Democratic or Republican in the upcoming election. And while this measure does not help us forecast individual House races, historically, it has provided a good guide to overall trends in midterm elections.

    Importantly, only a small minority of Americans usually decide the outcome in midterm elections, something election-watchers often overlook. For instance, in the 2018 midterms, which had strong turnout relative to other midterms, about 60 million Americans voted for the Democrats versus 51 million for Republicans, ultimately flipping control of the House to Democrats by over 40 seats.

    However, 60 million and 51 million people only represent about 24% and 20% of the U.S. population. Indeed, since 2002, the average midterm has seen only 36% of the adult population voting, evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, versus an average of 54% voting in presidential elections since 2000.

    Turnout trends

    In this context, midterms are primarily about holding onto as many presidential voters as possible. Our survey data suggests that Republicans are currently doing a better job of this than Democrats. At this time, Republicans appear to have about half of Trump's base locked up, representing about 14% of the population. Democrats, on the other hand, only have secured the support of about 43% of Biden’s electorate, also representing 14% of the population.

    slide 3

    Switching sides

    Republicans are currently winning about five-to-one among the roughly three percent of the public who are potentially swinging their vote from 2020 to 2022. That breaks out to 2.7% of the population swinging toward Republicans versus 0.5% of the population swinging toward Democrats. Of that 2.7% of swing voters Republicans are winning, less than a third – or under 1% of all adults – are Biden 2020 voters saying they’ll vote Republican this year.

    Taken together, Republicans currently lead with support from about 17% of the population compared to 15% support for Democrats. Over the next six months, can Democrats activate the additional 17% of the country who voted for Biden but who, right now, are not committed to participating in the midterms this year? Likewise, will Republicans make further gains by mobilizing the 15% of the country who voted for Trump but say they aren't voting this cycle?

    Next week, we will look at the compositions of these blocs and what it might take to get them off the sidelines and into the election.

    Washington, DC, May 17, 2022

    Ipsos is proud to launch our 2022 midterm tracking program with FiveThirtyEight this week. This is the first of seven monthly surveys that will track through and beyond the November election. Each month we will dive into another issue shaping the political environment while tracking the evolution of several benchmark questions over the course of the campaign. Our first poll, a deep dive into attitudes about inflation, provides a more nuanced view into how Americans are processing the current price pressures. You can find the data on our website here:

    Ipsos Topline: https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/FiveThirtyEight-2022-midterm-election

    And FiveThirtyEight’s first story here: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/we-asked-2000-americans-about-their-biggest-concern-the-resounding-answer-inflation/

    We are embarking on this program because we want to provide a more thoughtful way to cover American elections. We will still be doing our horse race polling, providing politics fans with their hit of endorphins, but the focus on the ballot tends to flatten our understanding of public behavior.

    Our FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos 2022 midterm tracking program is going to do a few things differently.

    • First, we are conducting this as a panel study on the Ipsos KnoweldgePanel. That means that each month we will go back to the same pool of Americans following the evolution of their opinions over the campaign. By our last wave, after election day, we’ll have excellent insight into if the election was decided by persuasion – that is convincing people to swing to your side or mobilization – that is convincing people already inclined to support you to turnout and vote.
    • Second, each month we will do a deep dive into a different issue, starting with inflation. Combined with our panel study approach, we will be able to compile a rich understanding of how these Americans view the many challenges and controversies facing the country.
    • Third, while we will be publishing the generic congressional ballot – who you’d plan to vote for in the congressional election, Republican or Democrat – that will not be the focus of our analysis. Instead, the ballot question will be a lens for us to follow how Americans reach their decision to vote.
    The author(s)
    • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
    • Sarah Feldman Senior Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
    • James Diamond Senior Research Manager, Public Affairs
    • Johnny Sawyer Research Manager, US, Public Affairs
    • Charlie Rollason Research Manager, US, Public Affairs

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