About one-third of US voters don’t know the name of the candidate running for Congress in their districts — and apparently view the midterm elections primarily as a referendum on President Trump, according to a poll released Wednesday.
The Reuters/Ipsos survey found that 34 percent of Republican voters and 32.5 percent of Democratic voters said they did not know who their party’s congressional candidates were.
Name recognition is usually critical in motivating voters and explains why candidates spend millions of dollars on TV ads. It also gives incumbents a big advantage as they fend off less well-known challengers.
But it may be less important on Nov. 6 as many voters may view the vote as all about the commander-in-chief, analysts said.
“With the current party polarization, voters increasingly vote based on party rather than the local candidates,” said Robert Erikson, a political science professor at Columbia University.
Marc Hetherington, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina, said name recognition isn’t that big a deal in the Trump era.
“People aren’t voting for their side as much as they are voting against the other side,” Hetherington told Reuters. “It really doesn’t matter what the names are these days.”
Generic party interest is not working to Republicans’ advantage nationally, the poll found.
Some 54 percent of adults said they disapproved of the way Trump was handling the presidency and Democrats had a 9 percentage-point lead in a generic question on which party they expect to vote for in Congress.
A Quinnipiac University survey the day before showed that Dems had a narrower 7-point lead — down from 14 points in a Sept. 12 Q poll, suggesting the so-called “blue wave” of Democrats may have crested.
Democrats need to pick up 23 seats in the House to win a majority that they could use to try to stop Trump’s agenda.
Beyond party and name recognition, gender may also play a role in voters’ decisions this year, said Michael Cornfield, an associate professor of political management at George Washington University.
The #MeToo movement and protests around Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have played into that trend.
“In these cases, it’s not just the name,” Cornfield said. “Gender relations may be the top issue.”
Trump at a MAGA rally in Mississippi Tuesday night heaped scorn on California college professor Christine Blasey Ford, who has charged that a pie-eyed Kavanaugh forced her onto a bed, groped her and tried to remove her clothes before she escaped at a high school drinking party.
The commander-in-chief in a mocking voice repeatedly rebuked her — to the delight of his supporters — for not remembering all of the details of the alleged incident, which she said happened 36 years ago.
Kavanaugh has vigorously denied her accusations, and angrily charged at a hearing last week that he was the real victim — of a plot cooked up by Democrats to derail his ascent to the Supreme Court.
The poll of 2,597 registered voters taken Sept. 24-30 had a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 3 percentage points.
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