With Democrats currently boasting a lead of around 8 points in the generic ballot, their chances of winning back the House are looking better by the day. Yet, that advantage hasn’t really translated into high hopes for the Senate, where this year’s map is far from conducive to a flip.
Indeed, because Democrats are defending 26 seats (and Republicans only 9), focus has been placed on the few GOP-held states that could go blue: Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, and, most recently, Texas. In the process, though, prospects for vulnerable Democratic Senators have fallen out of the public eye, leading to fewer polls.
As the above chart demonstrates, we have many more polls of Republican-held seats than Democrat-held seats. While the most popular races for each incumbent party — Texas and Florida, respectively — are at seven and eight surveys, the count quickly tapers off for Democrats…North Dakota has one! Interestingly, just three polls have been conducted there since February, although it’s often considered one of 2018’s most important “tipping points.”
Obviously, these aren’t the only surveys that have been released; we’ve also seen numerous internal polls, but those are difficult to trust. Thus, for all intents and purposes, respected pollsters aren’t paying much attention to Missouri, Indiana, and North Dakota.
I have a few theories for this:
- The first, and most probable, is public interest. Florida and Texas have been the two highest-profile Senate races this election cycle. People want to know what’s happening, and pollsters are eager to provide answers.
- The second is cost. Out of the above eight states, the ones with the largest populations also see the most polls. Since conducting a gold-standard poll can be exorbitantly expensive, surveyors would likely want to poll a large state with many potential respondents. We do know that Texas and Florida are also home to many competitive House districts, so pollsters may be hoping to kill two birds with one stone (or, in this case, poll two races with one call).
- The third, to which I alluded earlier, is media framing. Midterm election coverage has mainly centered on Democrats taking back the Senate, not Republicans keeping it. As such, it’s much more lucrative to analyze the seats that Democrats can flip, instead of the ones they can lose.
Nevertheless, media outlets and pollsters should not default to only covering big-ticket races; the contest in Texas will inevitably see more attention than that in North Dakota, but it shouldn’t be this disproportionate. Every seat matters in such a tight election year, making quality polls important in all toss-ups.
After all, if Democrats want any shot at winning back Congress’s upper chamber, they basically have to keep their incumbents safe — flipping Texas, Arizona, Tennessee, and Nevada would be all for naught if they lose just three seats of their own.
So, someone poll a vulnerable Democratic Senate seat other than Florida. Please and thank you.