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CBS News Battleground Tracker: A closer look at the parties

US President Donald Trump pumps his fist to the crowd as he arrives at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, Texas on May 31, 2018. 

Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images

By Anthony Salvanto, Jennifer De Pinto, Kabir Khanna and Fred Backus

Trump and his base 

Heading into the 2018 midterm elections, President Trump's voters are largely still with him. In these battleground districts where control of the House of Representatives will be decided, eight in 10 of his 2016 backers say they are sticking with the Republican party in their vote for Congress. 

Right now, just over one in 10 are not sure who they will support yet, but these currently undecided voters like the president's policies, and they think he respects people like them. Very few of Mr. Trump's backers say they'll vote for a Democrat in the fall.

Part of the reason Republicans are sticking with Trump: 87 percent of Republicans in these battleground districts say their local economy is in good shape, including three in 10 who describe it as very good.

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But it's not just about his policies. Almost eight in 10 (78 percent) like how he's upsetting the elites and the establishment, and most like his handling of FBI and justice officials. Still, fewer (56 percent) like how he handles himself personally.

There are some differences within the Republican Party. Taking a look at Republicans by income, those with higher household incomes are more likely than those earning less to say the president's policies have had a positive impact on them. This is especially true on taxes. Two-thirds of Republicans earning more than $100,000 a year say the recent tax law has impacted their taxes for the better, compared to 38 percent of Republicans with a household income below $50,000.

Still, those who plan to cast their vote for a Republican (across all income levels) are mostly doing so to back the president and his party, rather than oppose the Democrats. Seventy-six percent say their vote is for Mr. Trump's and Republicans' policies, and just 27 percent say they're voting against the policies of the Democratic Party.

The Democrats: A protest vote?

It's a bit of a different story on the Democratic side. Voters backing a Democratic candidate for the House divide in the motivation for their vote: half (51 percent) say it's to support the policies of the Democratic Party, while another half (49 percent) say their vote is mostly against the policies of Mr. Trump and the Republicans.  

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Democrats are united in their dislike for the president's policies and nine in 10 feel he doesn't respect or understand people like them.

As for what the party should focus on, at least seven in 10 of those backing a Democrat for the House want Democratic candidates to focus a lot on economic opportunity, civil rights and social justice, and universal health care. A smaller majority want them to focus a lot on legal status for DACA immigrants.

The very liberal want to hear more about social justice and DACA, while moderates, less so.

Democrats are less unified when asked who the leader of their party is. Of the choices offered, Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (19 percent) and Bernie Sanders (18 percent) top the list, followed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (14 percent) and Hillary Clinton (11 percent). A third of Democrats say their party doesn't have a leader. 


The House estimate is based on a multilevel regression and post-stratification model incorporating voter responses to this survey and has a margin of error of +/- 9 seats. The CBS News 2018 Battleground Tracker is a panel study based on interviews conducted of a representative sample of registered voters in 64 competitive and likely competitive congressional districts in the United States fielded between May 24–30, 2018 with 5,693 respondents. The margin of error +/- 1.6. 

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