As the ‘red wave’ narrative took hold in the Beltway, many prognosticators cited the country’s abysmal right track/wrong track numbers as evidence Democrats were destined for heavy losses.
It’s true that, heading into Election Day, the numbers were spectacularly bad, according to Civiqs tracking of the issue. Just 21% of registered voters said the country was on the “right track” compared to 68% saying it was on the “wrong track.”
But the assumption among myriad old-school analysts that all the negativity would specifically pull Democrats under turned out to be incorrect.
In fact, everyone, including Democratic voters and leaners, was dissatisfied with the state of the country, and they didn’t necessarily fault Democrats for the sorry state of affairs.
Actually, right after the GOP-packed Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade at the end of June, the ‘wrong track’ numbers jumped 6 points, from about 73% to 79%. But the wrong-track trajectory had also steadily grown from 69% since early May, when the draft decision first leaked to the public.
As veteran Democratic pollster Paul Maslin noted at the time, everyone was angry about something.
“We’re in a very different paradigm,” Maslin said on the July 1 That Trippi Show podcast. “Everybody’s mad about something. It may come down this November to which side is more fearful of the other. And what it would mean for the other to either retain power or to gain power. And that may end up becoming the key factor, and I think a reasonable person would have to say right now that’s a really close call. It’s not definitive at all that it’s the Republicans or the conservatives that are the ones that are going to be the most upset.”
Prescient. Maslin had just finished polling a state he declined to disclose in which he said a mere 8% of respondents said the country was moving in the right direction.
His read was the right one: It wasn’t all on Democrats. Voters were almost universally angry and/or dissatisfied, and the midterm election would come down to which party they feared most.
Civiqs tracking continues to reflect that reality today. Since Election Day, right track numbers have made a small-but-notable rebound, from 21% just before Election Day to 28% now. Wrong track numbers have similarly fallen 5 points in the same time period, from 68% to 63%. Here’s Civiqs tracking of right track/wrong track views over the past 12 months.
But perhaps even more telling is a bird’s-eye view of the right track/wrong track measure since the beginning of Donald Trump’s tenure. Wrong track views peaked three times over the past six years, and at least two of those occurrences were exclusively related to Trump and the GOP.
- 72%, early July 2020, due to growing unrest following George Floyd’s murder
- 72%, mid-January 2021, following Trump’s Jan. 6 insurrection
- 79%, early July 2022, following the Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs
It seems very clear now that, while overall voter morale is lagging across demographics and partisan groups, several of the country’s worst moments came about as a result of Trump and Republican leadership.
Voters remembered that when they went to the polls on Election Day to decide who would lead this country heading into the 2024 presidential election.
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