Congressional Race Remains Close

Congressional Race Remains Close

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Among registered voters, 47% prefer Democrat and 46% Republican

PRINCETON, NJ -- U.S. registered voters are about as likely to say they would vote for the Democratic congressional candidate in their district if the election were held today as to say they would vote for the Republican candidate, 47% to 46%.

Trend: Congressional Vote Preferences, Based on Registered Voters

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The near-tie in voters' preferences in the Sept. 24-27 USA Today/Gallup poll essentially duplicates what Gallup found in late August. Congressional vote choices have generally been close during the 2012 campaign, with neither party able to establish a consistent advantage over the six times Gallup has asked the "generic congressional ballot."

The generic ballot has proven an accurate predictor of the national vote for the U.S. House in past elections. The national vote is highly correlated with the party seat distribution in the House, which means the generic ballot gives a sense of which party will have control of the House after the elections.

Of course, turnout will make a difference in the final congressional vote, and the latest generic ballot estimate is based on the preferences of all registered voters, rather than those deemed most likely to actually vote. However, it still provides clues as to how the vote for Congress might go if the election were held today. Specifically, when Gallup has found congressional voting preferences close to even among registered voters, that is typically a better sign for the Republican Party, given usual Republican advantages in voter turnout.

Gallup will update voter preferences for Congress before the election, including "likely voter" estimates. Those estimates will give a better sense of how much of an advantage in turnout, if any, Republicans will have this election year, and which party is likely to hold control of the U.S. House after the Nov. 6 elections.

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Survey Methods

Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 24-27, 2012, with a random sample of 1,301 registered voters, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of registered voters, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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