‘Something happening here’: FiveThirtyEight sees shift towards Dems, claims not ‘just statistical noise’

As was the case in the lead-up to the 2020 election, Republicans have assured enthusiastic voters that a big, red wave is on the horizon for the 2022 midterms. While there are notable reasons why that previous prediction didn’t manifest, and early indicators have shown even more favorable conditions this go-round, with little more than three months until the ballots are tallied new polling shows a shift in momentum that “probably isn’t just statistical noise.”

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight began his forecast of the November elections on June 30 with a readily acceptable prediction that, though a “toss-up,” the Republicans were not only in favor of securing the House of Representatives but of winning some form of a majority in the Senate as well. Ahead of that analysis, even CNN had broadcasted that, “When you look at the generic congressional ballot…this is the best Republican position…basically of all time,” according to senior data reporter Harry Enten.

However, that edge may now be receding as Silver’s latest forecast now shows a marginal win for the Democrats for the first time this cycle and, “It seems clear that there’s Something Happening Here and movement toward Democrats in recent polls isn’t just statistical noise.”

Whereas Democrats had been sitting at a 47 percent chance of winning the Senate a month prior, on Saturday Silver now pegged their chances of winning around 56 of 100 times after his models simulated the election about 40,000 times to generate the sampling. There are a number of variables that could explain this shift, including legislation on guns and same-sex marriage, but the pollster believes the most likely contributing factor has been the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade through their ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

“The *something* is probably in part (or indeed mostly) Dobbs, but there are quite a few factors that have come to look better for Democrats over the past few weeks,” he wrote, “including their legislative agenda.”

By Silver’s forecast, the Republicans are only marginally ahead of the Democrats on a generic ballot with a 0.3 percent lead with the momentum clearly moving in favor of the left.

(Image: Screengrab/FiveThirtyEight)

This prediction is far closer than other polling organizations like the Trafalgar Group which has shown a tightening of the generic ballot with Democrats gaining ground, but the GOP remains ahead by roughly eight percentage points compared to nearly 10 in June.

A Beacon Research poll released the same day as Silver’s latest data highlights some of the discrepancies that leave the midterms very much up in the air at this time. According to their findings in Pennsylvania, despite the generic ballot holding a five percentage point advantage for Republicans, Democratic candidates Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and AG Josh Shapiro hold double-digit leads over their competitors Mehmet Oz and state Sen. Doug Mastriano.


“There are a lot of ‘ifs’ here,” Silver concluded but added, “Democrats have a lot of outs to a winning hand in the Senate, even if they’re drawing thin in the House,” and the Republicans would do wise to take note.


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Kevin Haggerty


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