Democrats’ advantage over Republicans ahead of the midterm elections is slipping as the gun control debate becomes a wildcard issue, according to a poll The Washington Post published Monday.
The gap between support for Democrats and Republicans in House races has narrowed considerably since January, The Washington Post and ABC News poll notes. One possible reason for the narrowing, the poll suggests, is the gun control debate, which hit a fevered pitch after the Florida school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February.
Nearly 40 percent of registered voters believe it is extremely important that political candidates share their views on gun control. The poll was conducted April 8-11 among 1,002 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
WaPo’s poll also suggests neither Democrats nor Republicans hold an advantage in support among the 42 percent of likely voters who want congressional candidates to share their views on the issue.
Three-quarters of voters who prioritize enacting new gun laws support Democrats for Congress, whereas 80 percent of likely voters who believe gun rights are more important support Republicans. Nearly 47 percent of people who want regulations on guns support Democrats, whereas 46 percent of those who prioritize gun rights over regulations prefer Republicans.
Overall, 47 percent of registered voters told WaPo they prefer Democratic candidates in their district, while 43 percent favor the GOP. The four-point margin compares with a 12-point advantage Democrats held in January, less than a month before the February shooting in Florida.
The incident resulted in gun control advocates haranguing both parties about rules tackling the issue. Another possible reason why Republicans are bridging the gap is the slight improvement in President Donald Trump’s approval ratings.
WaPo’s poll found that 40 percent of likely voters approve of the president, up slightly from 36 percent in January. He still faces a disapproval rating of 56 percent, according to poll, which is a higher rating than any president at this stage since the dawn of modern polling.
Enthusiasm is also shifting. Nearly 68 percent of both Republican-leaning and Democratic-leaning registered voters say they are certain they will vote in November elections, which contrasts with the Post-ABC polling before the 2010 and 2014 midterm cycles. Republicans averaged a double-digit advantage in intentions to vote and Democrats suffered major losses in both years.
Democrats are facing backlash on other issues as well, especially in California, where lawmakers passed a very unpopular gas tax increase designed to fix infrastructure problems. Republican lawmakers in the state are using the law, which was passed in June 2017, to generate excitement among GOP votes. They are pushing for a measure to be included on the ballot that repeals the increase.
Nearly 58 percent of voters oppose the tax increase, including 39 percent who say they strongly reject the legislation, according to a survey the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies conducted shortly after the measure passed. Only 35 percent of voters surveyed favor the law, which raises taxes on gasoline and diesel and hikes vehicle registration fees to fix roads and highways.
Opposition against the measure is widespread. Voters in all major regions of the state other than the Bay Area and all age categories over 30 are unhappy about it. Liberal voters are the only group that largely supports the law. Other polls are more split. More than 47 percent of likely voters favor repeal, while 48 percent oppose nixing the law, according to a poll the Public Policy Institute of California released in February.