But the survey also points to the opportunity for Democrats to assemble a broader coalition than they have mustered in recent congressional elections—particularly among women voters uneasy about Trump.
Compared with the results of the national exit polls measuring voter preferences in last year’s election, the ABC/Washington Post survey found more erosion for Republicans among women than among men. That may reflect both doubts about Trump’s performance and resistance to the GOP plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which appeared to hit another dead end in the Senate this week.
The Election Day surveys found that men preferred Republican candidates for Congress by a 12-point margin, 55 percent to 43 percent. Women preferred Democratic congressional candidates by 10 points, 54 percent to 44 percent. In each case, that preference tracked closely with their vote in the presidential contest, where men gave Trump a 13-point edge and women preferred Clinton by 11 points.
In the new survey, the GOP congressional advantage has narrowed among men to a 4-point margin—an 8-point decline in the party’s lead since last fall’s vote. But Democrats recorded a gain more than twice that large among women in the survey. Compared with Democratic congressional candidates’ 10-point edge with female voters last November, the survey showed women now prefer a Democratic Congress by fully 28 percentage points, 59 percent to 31 percent.
The movement among voters stands out even more vividly when looking at key groups within the white electorate. (Among non-white voters overall, the poll shows very little shift since last fall: In the exit polls, they preferred Democrats for Congress by a 50-point margin, and they lean toward Democrats in the new survey by 51 percentage points.)
The ABC/Washington Post survey shows Democrats making some gains among both blue- and white-collar white men. In 2016, white men without a college education—Trump’s best group—preferred Republicans for Congress by a crushing margin of 70 percent to 27 percent. In the new survey, support for Democrats among those men has edged up to 34 percent, while backing for Republicans has dropped to 60 percent.
Among white men with a college education, Democrats have gained virtually no ground: They attracted 38 percent last fall and draw 40 percent in the new survey. But more of those voters are now undecided: Republican support with them has fallen from 60 percent in the exit poll to 47 percent in the new survey.
In both cases, white women have shifted more toward Democrats than white men with a comparable level of education.
In the 2016 exit poll, Democratic House candidates ran even with Republicans among white women holding at least a four-year college degree. That was somewhat better than the party’s performance among those women in the past three congressional elections, but a disappointing result for Democrats nonetheless, given the widespread personal antipathy those women consistently expressed for Trump in polls. Though Clinton won a majority of those voters, her 51 percent support among them also underperformed expectations.