This week’s special edition of Our Best Intel is dedicated to the 2018 midterm elections. First up, we dive into newly-released data that shines a spotlight on voter motivation, key issues, the generic ballot, and more.

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What’s in play

Why it matters: While this data provides only a broad view of the election and not a head-to-head comparison of specific candidates, it underscores the large swath of territory Republicans are struggling to defend. There are dozens of GOP-held seats that are classified as toss-ups, and Democrats only need to net a 23-seat gain to retake the majority. On a national level, Democrats hold a 7-point lead in the generic ballot over Republicans in toss-up districts.

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Holding the senate

Why it matters: Voters have steadily lost confidence in the majority of the Senate Democrats in close elections, and seven of the 13 now underperform the net approval of President Trump in their states. Sens. Bill Nelson, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Manchin have seen particularly sharp drops since the last quarter of 2017.

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Voter Emotions

Why it matters: Democrats are angrier than Republicans, and “anger is an emotion that is strongly correlated with participation” in elections according to Vincent Hutchings, a University of Michigan political science professor. Hutchings co-authored a 2011 study that found that anger is more likely to lead to political participation than emotions such as anxiety or enthusiasm.

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YOUTH TURNOUT

56%

of 18-29 year-olds are very motivated to vote, according to the latest Morning Consult/Politico poll, the lowest percentage of any age group. Among voters 65 or older, 81 percent are very motivated to vote.

Why it matters: Low youth turnout could be an issue for Democrats in close elections. Democrats have a 29 point lead on the generic ballot with 18-29 year-olds, while Republicans have a 6 point lead on the generic ballot with 65+ year-olds.

More on youth voting

The Trump Effect

Why it matters: Midterm elections tend to serve as a referendum on the party in power. In 18 of the past 20 midterm elections, the president’s party has lost an average of 33 House seats, according to the Brookings Institution. And the two midterm cycles that bucked that trend, in 1998 and 2002, featured presidents who were popular on Election Day. President Trump is not widely popular, and Democratic challengers are seeking to capitalize on that.

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Kavanaugh Bump

89%

of Democrats said they were motivated to vote in the latest Morning Consult/Politico survey (75 percent are very motivated). Among Republicans, 84 percent are motivated (69 percent are very motivated).

Why it matters: Speculation that Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing drove Republican enthusiasm is not reflected in our tracking data. Three separate polls – taken before the hearings, directly after, and again this week – show the motivation trend moving in Democrats’ favor (from R+3 to D+5).

Plus: How Kavanaugh impacted women

Closing Messages

Why it matters: On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that “Republicans will protect people with pre-existing conditions far better than the Dems!” This follows several weeks of Republican candidates in dead-heat congressional races campaigning on a commitment to protect patients with pre-existing conditions, defend funding for entitlement programs and lowering costs for prescription drugs. Despite these efforts, most voters aren’t swayed.

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