New GW Poll Shows Voters Poised for Large Midterm Turnout

Inaugural GW Politics Poll finds strong support for gun laws, openness to immigration reform, opposition to interference with special counsel.

GW Politics Poll
June 13, 2018

Americans are overwhelmingly engaged in the upcoming 2018 congressional elections and are poised to split with President Donald Trump on a number of high-profile policy issues, including immigration and gun control, according to the inaugural George Washington University Politics Poll.

The poll, released on Wednesday, found that 78 percent of registered voters said they definitely will vote in the November general elections, and another 15 percent said they probably will. Only 2 percent said they would definitely not vote.

On a generic ballot for U.S. House, voters chose Democrats over Republicans, 45 to 38 percent, according to the poll. Voters also indicated they think their members of Congress care about their political careers and political parties’ agendas more than local communities or “people like you.” 

“In two respects, the poll suggests some Democratic advantages that are less visible on the surface,” said John Sides, associate professor of political science and a co-director of the GW Politics Poll. “Democratic voters remain more politically engaged than Republican voters on several dimensions—including their willingness to do the spadework of an election campaign. And Democratic incumbents in the U.S. House are perceived more positively than Republican incumbents. Whether that will add up to a veritable ‘wave’ remains to be seen.”

The GW Politics Poll is a new project managed jointly by the George Washington University's School of Media and Public AffairsGraduate School of Political Management and Department of Political ScienceYouGov, a leader in online polling, conducted the academic, nonpartisan research poll for GW. This poll was fielded May 14-30 with a sample of 3,150 registered voters. The margin of error of ±2 percentage points.

This is the first of four surveys focused on the 2018 midterm elections. The GW Politics Poll will interview the same respondents twice more before the election and then after the election to track public views over the course of the campaign.

Looking at the big policy issues in Washington, a majority of registered voters polled think immigrants who live in the country illegally should be given an opportunity to become U.S. citizens. The poll, the first edition of a new project studying voters’ attitudes toward political topics in the news, also found strong support for a number of gun regulation proposals. And while voters held mixed impressions of special counsel Robert Mueller, a majority of them opposed any interference in his investigation by Mr. Trump.

About 53 percent of voters polled disapprove of the job Mr. Trump is doing as president, with 46 percent doing so strongly, while 44 percent approve of Mr. Trump’s handling of his duties (28 percent strongly, 16 percent somewhat). 

Poll respondents displayed a broad openness to new gun regulations: 58 percent thought laws covering handgun sales should be stricter, and 12 percent said they should be less strict. Thirty percent did not want a change.

When asked about specific proposals for new gun laws, 85 percent were in favor of a law preventing persons with a history of mental illness from owning guns, and 76 percent supported a five-day waiting period for gun purchases. Two-thirds supported requiring registration of guns in a national registry (66 percent) and raising the minimum age for gun and ammunition purchases to 21 years old (67 percent). The only proposal strongly opposed by a majority of voters was a ban on the sale of all handguns (51 percent with another 18 percent somewhat opposed).

On immigration, most people either strongly favor (33 percent) or somewhat favor (30 percent) providing a way for those who came to the United States illegally to become citizens. Similarly, 64 percent of voters (40 percent strongly and 24 percent somewhat) favor allowing young adults brought into the United States illegally to stay and work in the country legally. Voters are still ambivalent, though, on the value of those who immigrated illegally into American society: 41 percent think they make a contribution, and 40 percent think they are a drain. About 30 percent think legal immigration to the United States should be easier, and 38 percent think it should be harder.

Turning to the investigation into Russian election interference, voters are split on their opinions of special counsel Mr. Mueller (39 percent very or somewhat favorable, 39 percent very or somewhat unfavorable) and their confidence in the fairness of his investigation (46 percent very or somewhat confident, 41 percent not too or not at all confident). Despite that divide, majorities believe it would be inappropriate for Mr. Trump to remove Mr. Mueller as special counsel (55 percent) and inappropriate for Mr. Trump to pardon senior members of his administration for related charges (58 percent). 

The new GW Politics Poll continues the strong tradition of public opinion research at GW, which includes the GW Battleground Poll, a nationally recognized series of surveys conducted by Republican pollster Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners. The final edition of the GW Battleground Poll was released in March 2018.

For additional data on politicians’ approval ratings, views on congressional incumbents, national outlook, taxes, health care, transgender restroom policies and more, visit the GW Politics Poll website.


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