CNN Poll: Democratic advantage narrows in 2018

Advantage on congressional ballot down to 5 points

WASHINGTON (CNN) - As the midterm election year begins, a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS finds the Democratic advantage on a generic congressional ballot has tightened to a narrow 5 points among registered voters, but those voters who say they are most enthusiastic about turning out to vote this fall favor Democrats by a wide 15-point margin.

The new poll's 49 percent Democrat to 44 percent Republican margin among registered voters is almost identical to Democrats' standing in January of 2006, the last midterm election year in which they made significant gains in the House of Representatives.

But it represents a large shift from CNN polls conducted in the past three months, in which Democrats held double-digit advantages over the Republicans. Preferences among all adults have shifted less dramatically, but are also tighter than last fall, with Democrats currently 10 points ahead of Republicans among all Americans.

Enthusiasm about voting in this year's contests has grown as the calendar page has turned, with a spike among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents from 32 percent feeling extremely or very enthusiastic about casting a ballot in December to 43 percent saying the same now. Democrats still hold an advantage in enthusiasm, however, with 51 percent saying they are that enthusiastic about voting in this year's midterm elections.

Enthusiasm for this year's contests peaks among liberal Democrats, 62 percent of whom say they are deeply energized about voting. Among conservative Republicans, just 46 percent say the same.

That disparity is fueling the Democrats' much wider edge on the generic ballot among enthusiastic voters. Among those voters who call themselves extremely or very enthusiastic about casting a ballot, 56 percent favor the Democratic candidate in their district, while 41 percent favor the Republican. Republicans hold a 5-point edge among those voters who rate themselves somewhat enthusiastic or less.

The tightened race among voters more broadly reflects shifts among independent voters in the last month, who broke heavily in Democrats' favor on the generic ballot in a December poll conducted amid Republican efforts to pass an unpopular tax bill. In the new poll, independents have grown more positive toward Donald Trump and now split almost evenly on the generic ballot: 45 percent for the Republican in their district to 42 percent for the Democrat.

Beyond these basic partisan dynamics, the poll finds a majority of voters more apt to back a candidate for Congress who opposes President Trump (52 percent), with just 41 percent saying they prefer a candidate who'll back the President. That's shifted some in the president's favor since November, as his approval rating has risen. But the current divide mirrors the public's preference in early 2006, when 52 percent said they preferred a candidate who would oppose George W. Bush and 39 percent wanted a candidate who would back him.

The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS Jan. 14-18 among a random national sample of 1,005 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. No interviewing was completed on Jan. 16 due to weather conditions at call center locations. Results for all adults have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points; it is 3.8 points for registered voters.

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