Haters gonna hate, but they might also decide the fate of the midterm elections. Voters who are markedly unhappy with both major political parties could swing left and clinch a House victory for the Democrats, according to a new poll released Monday by USC Dornsife and the Los Angeles Times.
On a certain level, it's nothing new for the minority party to snag votes and seats during the midterm elections, riding a wave of majority party resentment. FiveThirtyEight's forecast one week from the election found there was a roughly 80 percent chance Democrats would regain the House. But the energy pushing the left forward was unexpected.
"I was a little surprised that the result that we found about people who dislike both parties leaning towards the Democrats as far as they were," said David Lauter, the Los Angeles Times' Washington, D.C. bureau chief. Lauter expected the voters to be closer to an even split. The recent spike in the poll could be attributed to a reaction against President Trump, said Lauter, rather than being drawn to anything the Democrats were doing.
During the last presidential election, the same USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll was one of the few that predicted a Trump victory. Lauter, however, called the 2016 poll "inaccurate in the right direction" and "right for the wrong reason," because it predicted Trump's victory via popular vote.
In the latest poll, the voters are labeled colloquially as the "hold your nose and vote" contingent, and make up a significant portion of upcoming midterm voters. The poll of 4,711 respondents across the country was conducted over the last week and found Democrats leading Republicans with a 17-point advantage, when voters were asked which way they planned to vote. That's up from 13 points the previous week.
The midterm poll respondents were adult United States residents who consented to participate in a trio of tracking polls leading up to Nov. 6, via cell phones, landlines or no phone at all. Those who were not online already were issued internet-connected tablets.
Jill Darling, the survey director at USC's Center for Economic and Social Research, cautioned that polling, which provides crucial insight and direct access to voters and, comes with a margin of error. Lauter reiterated a similar point. "People don't like to think about probability, they like to think about certainty," he said. "If you tell someone that candidate X is ahead, people think that candidate X is going to win. It doesn't. It means candidate X will win most of the time."
The poll was focused on party over candidate, said Darling. "What we're really looking for is the size of the advantage that one party might have over the other."
This survey group is not the same one that swung the election to the right in 2016, Darling said.
That contingent consisted of people disenchanted by the Democratic contenders and former President Barack Obama.
"This group are mainly independents, lower education, people who are registered as non-Democrats or non-Republicans," said Darling.
That group is representative of ardent voters like Sarah Ball, a 25-year-old registered Democrat with fiscal conservative leanings.
"I don't necessarily dislike what Democrats are doing. I'm relatively neutral on that. But I have an extreme, visceral negative reaction to what Republicans are doing," said Ball, a Seattle insurance broker.
"My mom was very much an advocate for 'You have to vote because you're a Hispanic woman,'" Ball added. In an interview with Annenberg Media, she said that while she fell in line with her more liberal friends on Democrat social philosophies, she was a strong supporter of 2nd Amendment rights and increased military funding.
Robert Young is a 22-year-old political economy major at USC. He identifies as an independent but is a registered Republican, "as of now." If the Republicans could update their policies with the environment and social issues, Young would be more passionate about them.
Young attributed his migration towards the center to the Democratic Party's positions on the environment and social issues, which Young holds dear, but that wasn't all. "President Trump and his administration, and his actions, definitely aided with that push to the left."
Young believes that in the future, the party will have to grapple with a growing populace of people who are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Still, Young remains hopeful.
"I hope that over time the Republican Party starts to see that changing demographics and starting putting forth policies that kind of reflect that belief," he said, "and if that ever happens I will definitely come back to the Republican Party."