Amid Brett Kavanaugh Confirmation Battle, Democratic Enthusiasm Edge Evaporates A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds that amid the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation battle, the share of Republicans saying the 2018 midterms are "very important" has spiked.

Poll: Amid Kavanaugh Confirmation Battle, Democratic Enthusiasm Edge Evaporates

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The fight over Kavanaugh's nomination could have major consequences at the polls this November. A survey out today from NPR, the "PBS NewsHour" and Marist College shows that Republican voters are, right now, as energized as Democratic voters. It's a major change from last month, when enthusiasm among Republican voters was lagging behind Democrats.

NPR's lead political editor Domenico Montanaro is here with results of the poll. Hi, Domenico.


SHAPIRO: How big is this surge of interest among Republicans?

MONTANARO: Well, the percentage of Republicans saying that the election is, quote, "very important" has shot up from the summer when we polled in July. It went from 68 percent then to now 80 percent, which is almost the same level as Democrats. And that is really striking and should be a huge warning sign to the Democratic Party because all year, we've been talking about how Democratic enthusiasm has been outstripping Republicans and how that could lead to this eventual blue wave.

You know, everything Republicans have tried to increase this enthusiasm so far had fallen flat. Whether it was tax cuts or talking up the broader economy, even the threat of impeachment to the president, nothing really fired up the Republican base until now.

SHAPIRO: Is it clear that this is all about Kavanaugh?

MONTANARO: Well, look; I asked that question of our pollster Lee Miringoff of Marist, and his response was this - quote, "the result of hearings, at least in the short run, is the Republican base has awakened." So it does appear, yes, it has been the Kavanaugh hearings because we polled a week earlier, and we've seen this change.

He also stressed that there's - a month from the election, any number of things can and have happened in that amount of time. And whether Kavanaugh eventually gets through or is eventually sunk will really have some influence on how fired up Republican voters are. Anything can happen in those 34 days.

SHAPIRO: We've now heard from Kavanaugh and from his accuser Christine Blasey Ford. What does the poll show about who people say they believe?

MONTANARO: Well, this is really important. And more are saying they believe Christine Blasey Ford than Brett Kavanaugh. That was true narrowly when we polled a couple days before the hearing, and it only has grown afterward. About half of people say they believe Ford, while only about a third say they believe Kavanaugh. And that's been an increased margin from last week.

And at first blush, as Danielle mentioned earlier, men and women are starkly divided, but it's really a partisan divide. And actually, what's really interesting here is that the largest group of people that say that they believe Ford in the poll - that she's telling the truth - Democratic men.

SHAPIRO: You've talked about enthusiasm. When you look ahead to the election 34 days from now, what do the numbers show about who the public would prefer to control Congress - Democrats or Republicans?

MONTANARO: Right. All year it's been true that Democrats have led on this question. They continue to lead on this question, but only by 6 points now. That's been cut in half in the past month. And guess what. All of that movement in the past week has been among men. Just in the past week, those men have gone from being evenly split on whether they'd vote for a Republican or a Democrat in their district to now saying they prefer Republicans by 10 points.

Women, on the other hand, give Democrats a 20-point advantage. That's something that they've been saying all along. So you can see, really, who this Kavanaugh hearing really affected and had the most impact on.

SHAPIRO: Is the takeaway here that the, quote, unquote, "blue wave" seems less likely today than it did a month ago?

MONTANARO: I think, absolutely, that's one takeaway. And I think that there have been warning signs for Democrats that the blue wave wasn't going to be as big as it could be because Republican enthusiasm, even at its lower level, was still higher than out-parties in past wave years.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro with results of this new poll. Thanks, Domenico.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

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