The past month has been one of newfound excitement for the Democratic Party. After a morose past year in office, Joe Biden’s political fortunes are looking up. Biden delivered several substantial policy wins in August, including a substantial Inflation Recovery Act and a reform of student loans. These successes have led to a turn in the party’s prospects for the November midterms. They are still projected to lose the House by Five Thirty Eight, but their chances of retaining the Senate are at over 70 percent.
Democrats have let this recent success influence their sentiments going into November. Some Democrats believe the party can reverse the usual disadvantages of a sitting president going into a midterm. They think that retaining the House majority is possible even given poor historical trends. Others believe the party may increase its Senate majority. Republicans remain optimistic, however, with the hope that their party will benefit from historical trends and President Biden’s stubbornly dismal approval ratings.
Democrats have had what seems like a built-in polling advantage over the past six years, one that evaporates on Election Day. Hillary Clinton was famously picked by all prominent pollsters to win the 2016 presidential election, with the Princeton Election Consortium giving her a 99% chance of victory. The buoyant trend continued in 2020, when Democrats were favored to win in several Senate races where they eventually lost. A number of factors have been cited for this discrepancy. They range from the “shy Trump voter” theory to the idea that Democrats are simply more amenable to answering pollsters than their Republican brethren. After 2016, polling firms spent millions of dollars retooling their formulations in an attempt to correct these discrepancies. These efforts did not prevent pollsters from missing 2020, sometimes by substantial amounts.
The fear is that this trend is repeating itself again. Democrats seem to be getting their hopes up. They simply cannot control the urge to get excited over good polling. Careful party operatives believe that this feeling can lead to a sense of complacency and may lead to a rude awakening once the polls close and all votes are counted.