More voters see midterms as referendum on Biden rather than individual candidates: poll

President Joe Biden speaks about the soul of the nation, outside of Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 1, 2022. | JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

A recent poll shows that more likely voters believe that the 2022 midterm elections are a referendum on President Joe Biden's agenda than they are about individual issues or candidates. 

On Nov. 8, all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 seats in the U.S. Senate will be contested in elections held across the country.

Democrats hold a slight majority in the House and have a slight edge in the evenly divided Senate as Democrat Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaking vote.

Rasmussen Reports released the findings of a poll of 1,000 likely voters in the United States last Wednesday, conducted from Sept. 2 to Sept. 3 with a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Forty-six percent of respondents view the midterms as a referendum on Biden, while 40% viewed them being about individual candidates or issues, and 14% were "undecided."

When broken down by political demographics, 60% of Republicans, 40% of Democrats and 38% of politically unaffiliated voters agree that the upcoming elections are a referendum on Biden's agenda. Meanwhile, 49% of Democrats, 24% of Republicans and 46% of unaffiliated voters say the midterms are about individual candidates and issues. 

Half (50%) of the respondents believe that if the Republicans make gains in Congress, then "Biden should change course" regarding his political agenda. Forty-one percent believe Biden should continue to pursue the same agenda. 

If the midterms are a referendum on the Biden presidency, it may not bode well for Democrats, as polling analysis website FiveThirtyEight reports that, as of Wednesday morning, 53% of Americans disapprove of Biden and 42.6% approve.

The results of Rasmussen's poll are similar to its findings before the 2018 midterms, when 48% of voters surveyed said the midterm elections were a referendum on former President Donald Trump's agenda. Thirty-eight percent in 2018 believed that the elections were more about individual candidates and issues. 

It is common for presidents to have their party lose seats in the midterms held in their first term. In 2018 under President Donald Trump, Republicans lost 41 House seats in Congress while gaining two Senate seats. In 2010 under President Barack Obama, Democrats lost 69 House and Senate seats.

"Modern midterm elections have resulted in an average loss of 30 seats in the House of Representatives and Senate by the political party whose president occupies the White House," wrote journalist Tom Murse.

"Midterms, held in even years in the second year of a president's four-year term, are typically thought of as a barometer of the majority party's popularity among the electorate. And with few exceptions, they're pretty ugly."

According to an analysis released Wednesday, the CBS News election tracker predicts Republicans will take back control of the House this November. 

Noting that a party must have 218 seats to hold a majority in the House, CBS News estimates that the GOP will get 226 seats, down from the 230 predicted in July.

Real Clear Politics' "Battle for the House" election tracker lists at least 218 seats as "lean" or "likely" GOP, while 183 seats are listed as "lean" or "likely" Democrat. Thirty-four races are listed as "Toss Ups."

RCP's "Battle for the Senate" tracker lists 46 seats each as "lean" or "likely" GOP and "lean" or "likely" Democrat. Eight Senate races are listed as "Toss Ups." 

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