The November elections are just under five months away, but only a small share of Americans say they’re intently reading about their local congressional campaigns.
Just 16 percent of Americans — about one in six people — are tracking news about their district or state congressional campaigns “very closely,” according to a new survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution. Nearly twice as many — 28 percent — say they are following this year’s races “fairly closely,” while 55 percent say they are following the campaigns “not too closely” or “not at all closely.” Registered voters report being only slightly more interested than the public overall: 19 percent say they’re following news “very closely” and 31 percent say they’re following it “fairly closely.”
The poll’s findings are in line with those of other recent surveys: A Monday Pew poll found that 14 percent of respondents reported “very closely” reading news about this year’s congressional elections and another May poll by AP-GFK found 15 percent reported “a great deal” of interest in the upcoming congressional election.
The PRRI/Brookings survey was focused on immigration issues, but it included plenty of insights into this fall’s election, even beyond how closely respondents are tracking their local campaigns. Here’s a look at some of the key takeaways:
1. The public is split on its commitment to voting: 51 percent are sure they will vote (among registered voters, it’s 62 percent); 21 percent say they will probably vote and 25 percent say the odds are split.
2. Tea partiers are one of the most committed demographics, with 86 percent reporting plans to definitely vote this fall. Republicans are next, with 78 percent reporting the same, followed by Democrats, 57 percent of whom say they definitely plan to vote on election day.
3. Overall, Democratic candidates have an eight percentage point advantage over Republicans among registered voters — 45 percent to 37 percent support. But Republicans have a three-point lead — 44 percent to 41 percent — among the registered voters who say they have definite plans to vote this fall.
The report also offers some takeaways on how candidate stances on various issues would affect voter support of the candidate:
- On immigration reform. Opposing reform is a liability for candidates: 53 percent of voters say such a stance would make them less likely to support the candidate and only 16 percent say it would increase the likelihood that they would support the candidate. The same is true for Republican voters, who are slightly less opposed and slightly more supportive of an anti-reform stance.
- On health care. Voters are close to split on the 2010 law, with slightly more — 42 percent — saying a candidate’s decision to back its repeal would increase their support of that candidate. Slightly fewer, 37 percent, said that stance would make them less likely to support a candidate. Nearly 8 in 10 Republican voters and 9 in 10 Tea Party voters said a candidate advocating repeal of the law would increase their chances of supporting said candidate. Slightly more than 6 in 10 Democrats say they would be less likely to support a candidate backing repeal.
- On same-sex marriage. Voters are almost perfectly split on same-sex marriage, with roughly a third each saying support of same-sex marriage would increase, decrease and not affect the likelihood of a candidate earning their support.
- On President Obama. Candidates opposed to President Obama fare better among voters. Forty-one percent of voters say a candidate’s support of the president would make them less likely to back the candidate. For 31 percent of voters, it would increase their support of a candidate.
- On a minimum wage hike. Nearly 7 in 10 Americans back a minimum wage hike to $10.10 from $7.25 an hour, with Democrats nearly twice as likely as Republicans to back a hike.