Today is Election Day, and it’s hard to believe that anyone feels cheerful about it. Relieved? Maybe. But positive? Democrats are riven with anxiety about whether they can win back the House. Republicans are riven with anxiety about whether they can hold it. President Donald Trump has chosen a closing argument for the campaign that’s rooted in racist fearmongering and lies. The nation is still reeling from the massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and the mail bombs sent to prominent Democrats.
As Sarah Lyall succinctly put it in The New York Times, “It’s been an awful few days.” And before that, it was an awful few weeks and months. Even those moments that have accrued partisan advantage to one side or the other—the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, for example—seem to have only increased anger on both sides. The election’s results are unlikely to soothe any of that.
Yet a funny phenomenon exists in public-opinion polling. Pollsters like to ask whether the country is on the right track or the wrong track—a good way to take the temperature of the nation, regardless of one’s stance on specific issues. And despite the gloomy spate of news, several recent polls show a small but real and consistent improvement in the national mood, with slightly more Americans saying that the country is on the right track and fewer saying that it’s on the wrong one. Here, for example, is The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, with the most recent results coming from the start of November: