Across the country on Nov. 6, voters will head to the polls to determine the makeup of both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. While most don’t take as much interest in the midterm elections, many analysts see this year’s election as a critical indication of how voters perceive the performance of President Donald Trump’s first two years in office.
“More often than not, midterm elections are a referendum on the current presidential administration, whether we like it or not,” Scot Schraufnagel, chair of the Northern Illinois University Department of Political Science, said. “If there is a partisan swing one way or another, it is usually in response to the chief executive.”
Only 40 percent of respondents to the October Investor’s Business Daily IBD/TIPP poll approved of President Trump’s job performance (poll margin of error: plus or minus 3.3).
While Trump’s support among Republicans remains rather steadfast—with 84 percent saying they approve of the president’s performance—there are still questions as to whether or not the president’s unpopularity will have an impact on the electoral results on Nov. 6.
“I think the real drama is, will pro-Trump sentiment or anti-Trump sentiment carry over to congressional races or will it really not make much difference one way or another?” LT government teacher David Kruiswyk said. “Does [this contempt] translate into votes?”
According to Tobin Grant, chair of the Southern Illinois University Department of Political Science, Trump’s approval ratings could impact the outcome of the election based on the impact it has on who turns out to the polls.
“One of the reasons why Trump would play into this—and any other president, but particularly President Trump—is that if he is unpopular and really causing angst among Democrats, then they’re more likely to turn out because of that and Republicans might be more likely than normal to stay home,” Grant said.
With Trump’s negative approval ratings and opposition from the left, many Democrats are hoping to make gains in congress on the back of a so-called “Blue Wave.” Democrats are hoping to take control of the House and the Senate from the Republicans, which would have massive implications for the nation’s political landscape.
“I have to say that the most interesting thing [about this election] is this concept of the anti-Trump blue Wave,” Former LT Student Council President Brandt Siegfried ‘18 said. “It’s something all the analysts are talking about.”
Siegfried, who has been heavily involved with politics in Illinois and is intending on studying politics at Hillsdale College, added: “You definitely see a lot of progressive energy in the cycle so I think the question in November will be how strong this wave is in terms of achieving electoral results for either party.”
Furthermore, many analysts are looking at the significant amount of progressive energy that is being seen in younger voters as well.
The Youth Vote
In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., young people have taken to the streets for protests like the March for Our Lives. The Parkland shooting survivors also embarked on a bus tour over the summer seeking to get more youth registered to vote and ultimately turnout on election day.
According to a recent poll from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, more young people are following the congressional midterms than in previous years: when asked, 34 percent of 18-24 years polled said they were “extremely likely” to vote in the midterm elections (poll margin error: plus-or-minus 2.1).
Based on previous years, however, there are significant hurdles to actually seeing young people turning out in greater numbers, Kruiswyk said.
“I hate to be cynical, but we’ve had efforts to increase youth turnout in past years,” Kruiswyk siad. “They were really good at getting kids out to political rallies—and in some ways getting young people registered to vote—the problem is that those young people didn’t actually follow up and vote on election day.”
He added: “I’d love to see that change this year, but I’m not holding my breath.”
On the other hand, Republicans have seen a possible source of optimism in the results of the October IBD/TIPP, which showed a 4 percent jump in the president’s approval rating.
The poll came in the aftermath of the highly-controversial confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whose confirmation was slowed after multiple women came forward to accuse him of sexual harassment.
The poll suggested that the Republican gains were a result of “Republicans who saw the proceedings as a ploy by the Democrats to slow the nomination process,” Raghavan Mayur, president of the company that conducted the poll, said.
“I think, to some extent, it did energize the Republicans,” LT Government Teacher Jessica Lee said. “However, the fact that they won won’t give them the urgency to come and vote because they got there guy.”
On the other hand, Lee thinks that Democrats would likely be more motivated to vote, as a result of their outrage with the Kavanaugh confirmation.
“What will happen is that Democrats are going to come and vote because they are very upset,” Lee said “Generally, angry people vote more than happy people, and you see that anger in Democrats.”
If Democrats were to take control of either body of Congress, Democrats would have a better means of opposing aspects of Trump’s legislative agenda in the same manner as the Tea Party Republicans during the 2010 midterms and the following sessions of congress.
The Tea Party came into office riding on the back of opposition to former President Barack Obama’s signature piece of health care legislation, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama Care. In 2018, Democrats are hoping for similar results in their court.
At the end of the day, however, Lee thinks—with the 2020 census allowing state legislatures to redraw district—the real potential consequences of Democrats or Republicans making gains in flipping legislatures. In many states, the number of seats Democrats need to flip to do that is rather small.
“That can have an larger in the greater political landscape than the House and Senate,” Lee said. “There are 17 legislatures seats that are up for reelection in eight states that can flip the legislatures in democrats favor.”
She added: “Having these states drawing the districts, that could set the stage for Democratic controlling the house for the next 10 years.”