Three recent polls — conducted by CNN/SSRS, Quinnipiac University and Fox News —have shown Democrats losing their double-digit edge in generic congressional polling over the GOP. In two of the polls, Democrats experienced a double-digit drop in their lead from earlier polling.
There has been a lot of buzz about a blue wave that allows Democrats to retake the House in 2018, but these polls should give the left some pause. That’s because Democrats will need to over-perform against a generic ballot to score big gains in the House since — as Nate Cohn at the NYT notes in a worthy read — gerrymandered congressional districts give the GOP a clear electoral edge heading into the fall.
March 29: Democrats +6 — 50% to 44%
February 26: Democrats +16 — 54% to 38%
March 21: Democrats +6 — 49% to 43% for both the House and Senate.
December 5, 2017: Democrats +14 — 50% to 36% for the House and 51% to 37% for the Senate.
March 25: Democrats +5 — 46% to 41%.
October 25, 2017: Democrats +15 — 50% to 35%.
This is a season of gerrymandering. A federal court in Texas will soon rule on whether the state discriminated against minorities when it adopted its current congressional map. The Supreme Court will hear the biggest case of all in October: a challenge to Wisconsin’s partisan gerrymander with the potential to curb partisan gerrymandering nationwide.
But before the courts weigh in, it’s time to end the last debate over partisan gerrymandering. That’s the one that unfolded after the 2012 election, when Democrats won the House popular vote but fell 17 seats short of taking the chamber. It caused a classic feud between “data” and the conventional wisdom, with data journalists and political scientists contending that gerrymandering wasn’t responsible for Republican control of the House. Now, the electoral context has changed, and the old debate is moot. Heading into the 2018 midterms, data and conventional wisdom agree: Gerrymandering is a big reason the G.O.P. has a real chance to retain control of the House, even if the Democrats score a clear win.