Democrats Drive Optimistic Outlook for 2018, Poll Shows

(CN) – As the Trump administration marks one year in office, a majority of Americans expect 2018 to be better than last year, the Pew Research Center reported Thursday, and Democrats are particularly optimistic ahead of November’s midterm elections.

Based on a survey of 1,503 adults between Jan. 10-15, the Pew study found that 61 percent of Americans think this year will be better than the year before – a 12-point increase from how the public felt in 2017.

Along party lines, both Republicans and Democrats gained optimism for 2018, with Republicans at 88 percent (up from 83 percent last year) and Democrats at 42 percent (up from 24 percent last year).

However, Republicans and Democrats have different reasons for their optimism.

Thirty-six percent of Republicans cited the economy, jobs and the stock market as positive indicators for 2018, and 23 percent cited President Donald Trump or his policies.

About a quarter of Democrats said they were generally optimistic, while 18 percent specifically cited the midterm elections for their sunny outlook on the year.

Republicans were less likely to be looking forward to the midterms at 58 percent – a nine-point drop from the last midterms in 2014.

But 69 percent of Democrats expressed optimism for the midterm elections, up from 55 percent four years ago.

Liberal Democrats stood out as the most optimistic about November’s elections – 83 percent look forward to the contest, up 24 points from 2014. Conservative Democrats topped out at 58 percent on the same question.

Democrats may have good reason to look forward to the midterms. Fifty-three percent of all respondents in the Pew survey said they would support or lean toward the Democratic candidate for Congress in their district, compared to 39 percent who said they would support or lean toward the Republican candidate.

The survey data aligns with polls on generic congressional voting conducted since January 2017, according to poll aggregator RealClearPolitics.

Since 2006, a majority of voters from both parties have seen control of Congress as an important factor in who they cast their ballot for, according to the Pew study.

However, participants elevated the importance of congressional control in the latest survey – 68 percent of Democrats said that would be a factor for them this year, and 62 percent of Republicans said the same.

The midterm elections can also be seen as a referendum on the White House. Fifty-six percent of Democrats surveyed said their vote in the midterms would also be a vote against President Trump, and 33 percent of all registered voters surveyed said the same.

Since Trump’s inauguration a year ago, Democrats have been looking for congressional and state election wins not just for broader party control, but as a rebuke to the president.

Their most notable victory came last month when Democratic candidate Doug Jones beat Republican candidate Roy Moore in a special election for a vacant U.S. Senate in Alabama. Jones won by 1.5 percent, or just more than 20,000 votes, making him the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in the state in 25 years. Moore had been dogged by sexual-misconduct allegations involving teenagers 40 years ago.

On Tuesday, Democratic candidate Patty Schachtner won a special election for a state Senate seat in Wisconsin, which Republican Governor Scott Walker characterized as a “wake up call” in a series of tweets after the results came in.

Politico characterized both Jones’ and Schachter’s wins as a “warning sign for the GOP of a potential Democratic wave, sparked by animosity toward President Donald Trump, that many have predicted in this year’s 2018 midterm elections.”

Based on the latest Pew study, Democratic voters agree.

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