Just the Facts

A Snapshot of the Political Landscape

By No Labels
April 13, 2018 | Blog

When Speaker Paul Ryan announced this week that he would retire at year’s end, speculation about November’s election began immediately. Can Republicans hold the House? Who will replace Ryan as speaker? And which party will have the speaker in 2019?

Those questions will be answered in many different ways, none of which will contain any degree of certainty. Yet it is a good time to take stock of the political landscape, with months left to go before voters trek to the polls. To do that, we can turn to the latest Harvard-Harris Poll, which presents a number of insights about what could impact the races in November.


The President and the economy

  • Presidential approval ratings often impact the prospects of congressional candidates from their party. This year is likely to be no different. President Trump’s approval ratings have remained in the 40s since he was inaugurated, and stood at 44 percent in March.
  • The number of voters who feel the country is on the wrong track has decreased. In October, 60 percent felt that way. In March, it was down to 53 percent.
  • Perceptions about the economy are another indicator that can impact elections. More than two thirds (69 percent) said the economy was strong. One third (31 percent) said it was weak.
  • One third (36 percent) said their personal financial situation was improving, up from 24 percent in November.


Political parties and Congress

  • More than a third of respondents (37 percent) said they approved of the job the Republican Party is doing. The number has held even in recent months. Almost two thirds (63 percent) disapproved.
  • In March, 44% approved of the job the Democratic Party is doing, which is up five percentage points over the previous month. Disapproval stood at 56 percent.
  • In the “generic ballot,” which asks voters whether they would favor Republicans or Democrats if the election were held today, Democrats continue to lead. Forty-five percent chose Democrats while 34 percent chose Republicans.
  • Fully 57 percent favored the Democratic Party to win control of the House and the Senate.


The poll was conducted among 1,340 registered voters March 27 to 29. What does it say about the election? There are as many interpretations as there are voters. The election is still months away. There is much campaigning ahead, and many stories will develop before ballots are punched. Numbers like these will be well worth watching.

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