October 31, 2022

UCR pundits predict Democrats will take the Senate

School of Public Policy will host in-person, Zoom election-night events

Author: J.D. Warren
October 31, 2022

Most political scientists and prognosticators predict a GOP win in the U.S. House of Representativeson Nov. 8, and so much of the media’s focus has turned to a tighter suite of contests – those for U.S. Senate seats.

midterms Senate
Graphic by Melissa Cordoba-Carranza/UCR

UC Riverside political scientists and other social scientists were polled recently on which candidates they think will win in battleground states – those considered the most contentious. Many Senate elections, most involving incumbents, are not expected to be competitive.

Of the eight most competitive races, those polled predicted five Democratic wins to three GOP wins. But two of the victories were predicted by a thin margin of respondent votes cast.

In two of the most tightly contested races, in Georgia and Pennsylvania, those polled overwhelmingly predicted victories for Democrats Raphael Warnock, Georgia, and John Fetterman, Pennsylvania. National polling has both races more or less even.

Those polled were not asked to prognosticate the margin of victory. And they were asked to distinguish between who they believe will win, vs. who they would like to win.

Most of the 19 faculty respondents felt the following would win: Democrats Mark Kelly, Arizona, and Maggie Hassan, New Hampshire and Republicans Marco Rubio, Florida, and Ted Budd, North Carolina. That result is on par with national polls.

Also parallel with national polling, the respondents were split on tighter races in Nevada, with respondents saying Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto will win, and Wisconsin, with Republican Ron Johnson winning.

Things have shifted in the U.S. Senate race in the past several months. Early in the cycle, it was predicted Republicans would win, then Democrats. But Republicans have regained some momentum, and national polls show a split ).

“At this point it's not clear whether Democrats or Republicans will win the Senate,” said Kevin Esterling, a professor of public policy and political science. “A few weeks back, predictions shifted toward the Democrats taking over given underperformance by weak, Trump-aligned candidates. But in recent weeks predictions are shifting in favor of Republicans as voters begin to focus more on inflation and overall concerns with the economy.”

Political science professor Shaun Bowler agreed inflation is working against Democrats: “When voters have pocketbook concerns that’s never good news for any incumbent.”

But Bowler said Democratic candidates have been strengthened by “a gradual recovery of popularity for President Biden and the Democrats.”

“After what seemed like a period of not being able to get anything done, they have produced a series of legislative initiatives over the summer,” Bowler said. “The Inflation Reduction Act was a landmark piece of policy making.”

Bowler predicted the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will impact voter behavior. 

“The Supreme Court’s period of what is being interpreted as overt partisanship is providing a boost for Democrats - most obviously on the issue of abortion but also on voting rights.”

In a UCR Life newsletter poll distributed Oct. 27, about 38% of 187 respondents believe the GOP will take the House and Senate. About 27% believe the Democrats will win the Senate and the GOP will win the House; about 22% believe the Democrats will win both houses and about 12% have the GOP winning the Senate and the Democrats winning the House. The UCR Life newsletter is distributed weekly to alumni, students, parents, faculty, and staff.

A wildcard, Esterling said: The unpredictability of conservative voters in recent cycles.

“Many of the Trump-aligned candidates are underperforming both in terms of polling numbers and in terms of fundraising,” Esterling said. “But over the past few election cycles, polling has understated Republican support for candidates, and as the election draws near voters are reverting to their normal partisan patterns.”

For a Legal Analyst’s Office description of Proposition 30, visit https://lao.ca.gov/ballot/2022/Prop30-110822.pdf For a CalMatters description of Proposition 30 and the other propositions on the Nov. 8 ballot, visit https://calmatters.org/california-voter-guide-2022/propositions/ The site also includes a quiz readers may find useful to help them decide whether they support measures. For the full text of the propositions on the Nov. 8 ballot, visit https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-measures/qualified-ballot-measures

UCR’s School of Public Policy will host an election-night watch party on Nov. 8. There is an in-person event open to the public from 5 to 8 p.m. Pacific Time at Bannockburn J102, and a virtual event from 8 p.m. to midnight Pacific Time. Registration for the in-person and virtual events is required. For more information, email mark.manalang@ucr.edu

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