Sabatos Crystal Ball

New polls: Democrats in decent shape across the Frost Belt

Democratic Senate incumbents with big leads in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin; very close races in Indiana Senate and Ohio governor; Scott Walker behind in Wisconsin

UVA Center for Politics September 26th, 2018

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A series of new Reuters/Ipsos/University of Virginia Center for Politics polls found Democrats ahead in a host of Senate and gubernatorial races in five mostly Midwest states that President Trump carried in 2016, in some cases by sizable margins. However, the polling did find two very close contests for Indiana Senate and Ohio governor.

The polls found the following results for the Senate and gubernatorial races among likely voters in the five states surveyed (*indicates incumbent):

Indiana Senate: Joe Donnelly* (D) 46%, Mike Braun (R) 43%

Michigan Senate: Debbie Stabenow* (D) 55%, John James (R) 35%

Michigan Governor: Gretchen Whitmer (D) 52%, Bill Schuette (R) 39%

Ohio Senate: Sherrod Brown* (D) 50%, Jim Renacci (R) 39%

Ohio Governor: Mike DeWine (R) 45%, Richard Cordray (D) 44%

Pennsylvania Senate: Bob Casey Jr.* (D) 53%, Lou Barletta (R) 37%

Pennsylvania Governor: Tom Wolf* (D) 55%, Scott Wagner (R) 38%

Wisconsin Senate: Tammy Baldwin* (D) 52%, Leah Vukmir (R) 39%

Wisconsin Governor: Tony Evers (D) 50%, Scott Walker* (R) 43%

President Donald Trump’s approval rating among likely voters was net negative in all five states, and only in Indiana was he close to breaking even:

Indiana: 48% approve-51% disapprove

Michigan: 39%-59%

Ohio: 45%-54%

Pennsylvania: 44%-56%

Wisconsin: 42%-58%

More details, including tables, crosstabs, and methodological information, for all five of these polls are available at:

https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/new-midterm-poll-Indiana

https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/new-midterm-poll-Michigan

https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/new-midterm-poll-Ohio

https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/new-midterm-poll-Pennsylvania

https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/new-midterm-poll-Wisconsin

There are several other questions included in the poll, and the polls also include results for voters who say they are undecided but leaning to one candidate or the other. We did not include these leaners in our reporting of the ballot tests above, but even if we had, the margins would not have changed in a substantial way in any of the polls. Also available, in the crosstabs, are different projections of the ballot test based on different turnout models. All five polls were conducted online in English between Sept. 12-21, although the field dates were slightly different for each poll. They included roughly 2,000 respondents per state (narrowed down to about 1,100 likely voters per state). For more details about when each poll was in the field and the specific number of respondents, please see the links above.

One of the top Senate contests in this election cycle, the Indiana race between Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) and former state Rep. Mike Braun (R) has seen a wide array of survey results over the past few months, ranging from a Donnelly lead in the low double digits to a narrow edge for Braun. Our poll found Donnelly ahead 46%-43% among likely voters, but the incumbent’s lead fell inside the poll’s credibility interval (similar to margin of error), another indication of its competitiveness. Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates the Donnelly-Braun race a Toss-up. The Democrats’ ability to retain the Hoosier State seat or the Republicans’ to gain it will be critical to determining control of Congress’ upper chamber.

The other lead finding comes in Wisconsin’s gubernatorial race, where incumbent Gov. Scott Walker (R) may be an underdog in his race for a third term in office. Our new poll found Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers (D) leading Walker 50%-43% among likely voters. This finding is in the neighborhood of other polling in Wisconsin: In recent weeks, various polls have found Evers in the lead by around an average of five percentage points. The same polls have found Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) regularly ahead of state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R) in Wisconsin’s Senate race, with Baldwin leading by an average of about 11 points. In our new survey, Baldwin led by 13 points among likely voters. Once thought to be a second-tier target for the GOP, Baldwin appears to be in a good position to win reelection in November. The Crystal Ball rates Wisconsin’s gubernatorial contest as a Toss-up and its Senate race as Likely Democratic.

In two other states that President Trump carried in 2016, Democrats held sizable leads in both the Senate and gubernatorial races. In Michigan, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) led businessman and combat veteran John James (R) 55%-35% in a contest the Crystal Ball rates as Likely Democratic. The incumbent’s edge in this survey echoes other polls, which have routinely found Stabenow ahead by hearty double-digit margins. Meanwhile, in the Wolverine State’s open-seat gubernatorial race, former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D) held a notable 52%-39% edge over state Attorney General Bill Schuette (R). Whitmer has consistently led surveys in a race that the Crystal Ball recently moved to Likely Democratic. In Pennsylvania, the lone state polled that is not in the Midwest, both the state’s Senate and gubernatorial races look to be Democratic holds. In the Keystone State’s Senate race, Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) led Rep. Lou Barletta (R, PA-11) 53%-37%, and in the gubernatorial contest, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) ran ahead of former state Sen. Scott Wagner (R) by a margin of 17 points, 55%-38%. Wagner just resigned his state legislative seat in June to focus on his campaign. These Pennsylvania numbers are similar to what other pollsters have found: Both Casey and Wolf hold average leads in the mid-double digits. The Crystal Ball rates Pennsylvania’s Senate race as Safe Democratic and its gubernatorial election as Likely Democratic.

Of the four states polled that have both Senate and gubernatorial elections this November, only one had results pointing to a potential split-ticket party result. In Ohio, the new poll gave Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) a 50%-39% advantage over Rep. Jim Renacci (R, OH-16) in the Senate contest, but found state Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) up 45%-44% on former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray (D) in the Buckeye State’s gubernatorial race. DeWine and Cordray actually faced off in the state’s 2010 attorney general election, where DeWine defeated the then-incumbent Cordray by a narrow margin. In the Senate race, Brown has routinely garnered leads in the double-digits, while the gubernatorial race has had more mixed results. The Crystal Ball views Ohio’s Senate race as a Likely Democratic hold but rates the governor’s election as a Toss-up.

Reuters, Ipsos, and the UVA Center for Politics are collaborating this fall on several state-level polls. This is the second batch that has been released so far — last week, we looked at several states in the Sun Belt — and more releases are planned in advance of the November general election. These individual state-level polls also will help supplement the data presented on the UVA Center for Politics/Ipsos Political Atlas, a new website that uses Crystal Ball ratings, poll-based modeling, and social media data to present the state of play in this cycle’s Senate, House, and gubernatorial elections. A holistic approach is also what we at the Crystal Ball apply to polling, and we try to take many different surveys into account as we formulate our ratings.