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Tight contests mark critical Senate races — CBS News Battleground Tracker poll

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

Florida

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Tight contests dominate the Senate landscape: In Florida, incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott are tied among likely voters, 46 percent to 46 percent including those who have cast ballots already. Scott, the sitting governor, gets positive marks from voters on his handling of the recent hurricane and benefits from Republicans reporting that they're more likely to vote than the Democrats who haven't already. 

Nelson's support, meanwhile, is underpinned by voters who place health care atop their issues list. The Republicans have a favorable map in their effort to hold their Senate majority, and winning two or three of these states would probably put them in strong position to hold it. Democrats would probably need wins in all three to have a good shot at taking the Senate.

Arizona

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Health care concerns have helped Democrat Kyrsten Sinema to a slight three-point advantage over Republican Martha McSally, 47 percent to 44 percent. Sinema does well with voters who say health care is a very important concern and is also helped by nine percent of Republicans who say they're backing her — it's hardly an overwhelming number, but it could be essential for a Democrat in a Republican-leaning state like Arizona.

Indiana

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But Republican chances of holding on to their Senate majority – or even adding to it – are helped by the prospect of picking up a seat in Indiana, where Republican Mike Braun leads incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly, 46 percent to 43 percent. In Indiana, where many voters say that agriculture plays a role in their economy, three-quarters of Republicans feel that new tariffs will ultimately lead to better trade deals for the U.S.

President Trump appears to be a large factor in these states. In all of them, large majorities say their vote for Senate will be either to support or oppose the president.

The issues

Most voters in all three states rate health care as a very important issue. In particular, views on what could happen to coverage of pre-existing conditions is strongly linked to vote choice. As has long been the case nationally, voters in these states think insurance companies should be required to cover pre-existing issues. 

In all these states, big majorities of voters think the Democrats would force that requirement. Also, more think the Republicans would let insurance companies charge more or end requirement than force the requirement. Views of which party is better on Medicare, generally, are strongly correlated with vote.

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In a heavily partisan election environment, voters have sharply different views of the groups each party represents. Partisans on each side believe the other party is representing people of fundamentally different culture and values – not simply representing those with policy differences. 

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Republicans are more likely to be seen as putting interests of wealthy and corporations ahead of working people. Democrats are seen as only mixed in this regard. Democrats are seen, especially by Republicans, as prioritizing the interests of recent immigrants over those of longer-term residents and citizens.

The CBS News 2018 Battleground Tracker is conducted by YouGov, an online polling company. The margin of error in Arizona is 4.1; in Indiana is 3.7; in Florida is 4. The respondents were selected to be representative of likely voters in terms of age, race, gender, and education. The polls were fielded between October 23–26, 2018.

Toplines:

Arizona, Florida, Indiana