With partisan polarization and an evenly split midterm election in the latest NBC News poll, pollsters see the electorate hinging on the economy versus abortion.
"There is a campaign about the economy, cost of living, crime, and border security, and Republicans are winning this campaign," Public Opinion Strategies GOP pollster Bill McInturff told NBC News. "But there is a second campaign on abortion, democracy, and climate change, and Democrats are winning that campaign."
Republicans and Democrats are at a dead heat — 46% to 46% — on the generic ballot in the poll. The GOP led by 2 points last month, but each party is aligning behind the issues most important to them.
"We often think about wave elections, but this year, we may think instead about a 'waves' election where unprecedentedly strong crosscurrents push voters in different directions, with an end result that may not be what we expected," Hart Research Associates' Democrat pollster Jeff Horwitt told NBC.
Abortion is a strong current for Democrats, as a strong majority disapprove of the Supreme Court overruling Roe v. Wade and kicking abortion law back to the states.
But Republicans are voting on the economy, and 63% of voters believe their income is falling behind the cost of living, and 58% disapprove of Biden's handling of the economy.
Notably Republicans lead among independent voters 43%-37%, along with the following demographics:
- Men – 53% to 39%
- Whites – 54% to 41%
- Whites without college degrees – 64% to 31%
Democrats hold the edge with these voters:
- Black voters – 77% to 8%
- Ages 18-34 – 57% to 33%
- Whites with college degrees – 58% to 38%
- Women – 53% to 40%
- Latinos – 46% to 42%
Republican voters are slightly more enthused about voting in the midterms, holding a 3-point lead in the category among those saying they are a 9 or 10 on interest in voting (69% for GOP, 66% for Democrats).
President Joe Biden is gaining ground on his once-sagging approval rating (45%), which registered its highest mark in the poll since last October, but "45% has always traditionally been a flashing warning sign for an incumbent American president," according to GOP pollster McInturff.
While former President Donald Trump is not on the ballot, he remains a 20-point net-negative among those polled (34% positive, 54% negative). Biden is just 5 points net-negative (42% positive, 47% negative).
NBC News polled 1,000 registered voters Sept. 9 to 13 and the results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
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