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Poll: Republicans have caught up with Democrats in voter enthusiasm amid the Kavanaugh saga

The Week logo The Week 04/10/2018 Peter Weber

The 2018 midterms are now less than five weeks away and, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, Republican voters have caught up with Democrats in viewing the election as "very important." In July, the same poll registered a 10-point enthusiasm gap, and while Democrats and Republicans are both more juiced to vote, Democrats now lead by a 2-point margin, 82 percent to 80 percent. The pollsters cite the contentious Senate hearings over Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination and the sexual assault allegations against him.

"The result of hearings, at least in the short run, is the Republican base was awakened," says Lee Miringoff, Marist's polling director. Kavanaugh is historically unpopular for a nominee and polls show that significantly more people believe his accuser Christine Blasey Ford than him, but "the Republicans' approach has been, and continues to be, all about the base," Miringoff told NPR. "This is their M.O., and that's what we're seeing. That works if turnout is not high."

And Democrats have reason to worry about turnout because key elements of their base — voters under 30, Latinos, black voters — lag in enthusiasm about the election. Voters still want Democrats to win the midterms by 6 points, but that number was 12 points in a mid-September Marist poll. New numbers from Quinnipiac also show the Democrats' advantage in House races shrinking to 7 points, 49 percent to 42 percent, from 14 points. At MSNBC, analyst Howard Fineman suggests Republican voters view attacks on Kavanaugh as attacks on Trump.

Brett Kavanaugh. © Drew Angerer/Getty Images Brett Kavanaugh.

"The numbers suggest the big blue wave may have lost some of its momentum as House races tighten," said Quinnipiac's Tim Malloy. "Trump's approval remains deeply in the red."

The NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll was conducted Oct. 1 among of 996 registered voters; it has a margin of error of ±4.2 points.

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