MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

A big question for election day this year - who will control the House of Representatives? Which party will hold more than half of the 435 seats? That's 218, and today the Republicans hold 232, so a swing of 15 seats changes the balance.

Most House districts are not competitive by reason of tradition or incumbency or artfully drawn boundaries, so political analysts and pollsters look carefully at the few dozens seats that are competitive. Pollsters like Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center. Welcome back.

ANDREW KOHUT: Happy to be here.

SIEGEL: You have a new poll out about voters in competitive House districts. What do you see?

KOHUT: Well, it's a nationwide survey, but we over sampled people who live in the 40 districts considered competitive by most of the political analysts and what we found was the same broad, Democratic lead in voting intentions in these competitive districts as we see in the country nationwide. We found a 39 to 50 percent margin favoring the Democrats and that's a pretty healthy lead, suggesting that the Democrats would possibly win a good share of these districts if this margin holds until election day.

SIEGEL: When you compare what you're seeing now in 2006 with how people voted or what they told the pollsters they did in 2002, the last midterm election, there's some groups that really are changing en masse here.

KOHUT: There sure are. I mean, the senior vote seems to be going heavily to the Democrats. People in the Midwest. Women. The gender gap has opened up. There's a very substantial lead for the Democrats among women, and most specifically among married moms and working moms, thought of generically as the security moms in the political parlance, are now leaning toward the Democrats and these are very significant shifts.

But the most important shift of all is independents. Independents determine these elections and we see a very wide margin for the Democrats in terms of voting intentions.

SIEGEL: What are the issues which they seem to be voting on?

KOHUT: Well, the number one issue is Iraq. When we ask people who say they're thinking about national issues and considering a vote in their local districts, Iraq comes to the top of the list. But there's also the economy, terrorism, health care costs, immigration, but of these, certainly the most consistent and the one that seems to have the most bite is Iraq.

SIEGEL: It's often said that the Republicans in recent election years have held an advantage in get out the vote operations and election day operations that gives them an added advantage. Republicans nowadays trying to paint the glass a little bit full will say we'll pick up points on election day. Who knows? Four to seven points by get out the vote.

KOHUT: They might. The Republican vote mobilization is a very effective device, but they have a lot of ground to make up. Typically Republicans are more inclined to vote than Democrats, but in this season we see more Democratic enthusiasm, and the turnout expectations based upon people's attitudes and what they say at this stage in the game suggests higher than usual Democratic turnout.

Now as we get down the road and we do our final poll in front of the election, we may see this changing and as effective as the Republican get out the vote efforts are, they have to push a rock up a hill. This is an election in which Republicans very much feel that their party is under a cloud. President Bush doesn't even have the kind of rating he had from Republicans back in 2005 and there's a fair amount of discontent with national conditions even among GOPers.

SIEGEL: Earlier this week, Karl Rove told me at White House Radio Day that the numbers he sees, and they're not the numbers I see, he assured me, although I see a lot of numbers, they show that the Republicans are doing very well. They're going to hold the House and the Senate.

KOHUT: Well, I don't know how to respond to that. It is a rare consensus among polls. In fact, our poll with an 11 point margin is one of the smaller margins of Democratic leads and I don't know of a national public poll that has the Republicans ahead or even even in voting intentions.

SIEGEL: Andrew Kohut, thanks a lot for talking with us once again.

KOHUT: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: Andy Kohut is the president of the Pew Research Center.

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