This is a very special study conducted solely in the 50 most competitive House seats that will determine the outcome in 2006. Only 10 of the districts are currently held by a Democrat, while 40 are held by Republicans. Voters in these 50 districts gave 58 percent of their votes to George Bush (over Kerry in 2004) and 56 percent to Republican candidates for Congress. But as Congress is recessing for the summer, Republican candidates (polled by name) are getting only 43 percent of the vote. The results are breathtaking and suggest that in the real world where the campaigns are fighting it out for votes, Democrats are in a very strong position to hold virtually all their seats, while the Republicans could readily lose most of theirs. Clearly, the probability of a Democratic takeover in November is rising, and is more likely than not.

Here are some of the results that bring us to this conclusion.

  • The ten Democratic incumbents are doing very well overall, defeating the Republican candidate by a two-to-one margin (60 to 29 percent), thus in a strong position to defend and hold those seats.
  • In the 40 Republican-held seats, Democrats are ahead, 49 to 45 percent. That reflects a strong anti-incumbent and anti-Republican mood in these 50 competitive districts: just 30 percent want to re-elect the incumbent (by name), with 46 percent expecting to vote for somebody new; only a third think the country is headed in the right direction.
  • Voters supporting the Democratic candidate indicate much higher interest in the election and much higher enthusiasm for voting in their election. For example, 62 percent of Democratic voters say they are more enthusiastic, compared to only 49 percent of the Republicans. As a result, we show the most likely voters to be giving the Democrats an even greater margin in the congressional ballot.
  • The war is the biggest reason for people believing the country is off track (43 percent), but an equal number mention a range of economic and financial issues (economy, jobs, gas prices, and health care).
  • George Bush is a liability even in these Republican districts. A large majority disapprove (55 percent), but more important, 45 percent of the voters “strongly disapprove" - double the number who “strongly approve." Thus, in these Republican districts, Karl Rove is going to struggle to find his base voters to mobilize.
  • The news is not helping the Republicans in particular. We looked at the issues being debated in the Congress and with the president and asked, "Based on what you have heard recently, does it make you more likely to support the Democrats or Republicans?" The war and the economy are both re-enforcing the Democrats’ current lead in these 50 districts. Attempts by the White House and the Republicans in Congress to shape the war debate and spin the economy are having the opposite effect.
  • The Republicans do better on other breaking debates, like Guantanamo and wiretapping and illegal immigration, but no issue we looked at moved more voters to the Republicans than Democrats.
  • Values issues, particularly stem cell research, appear to drive voters to the Democrats. By 18 points (51 to 33 percent), voters say the news about this debate makes them more likely to vote Democratic.


This bipartisan survey of 1,000 Likely Voters in the 50 most competitive congressional districts in the US was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Public Opinion Strategies July 19-23, 2006. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percent.

The congressional districts were selected based on their ranking by the Cook Political Report, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball (UVA Center for Politics), the Rothenberg Political Report, and the National Journal’s Hotline. They include 40 Republican seats, 1 Independent seat, and 9 Democratic seats. 12 of the districts are open seats (10 Republican, 1 Independent, 1 Democrat). They are listed as follows: IA-1, CO-7, OH-18, PA-6, NM-1, IN-9, AZ-8, CT-2, IN-8, CT-4, KY-4, FL-22, NC-11, IL-8, OH-6, IL-6, IA-3, OH-15, PA-7, VA-2, GA-8, NY-24, WA-8, MN-6, GA-12, WI-8, NY-20, WV-1, PA-8, AZ-5, PA-10, LA-3, CT-5, TX-22, TX-17, OH-1, CA-11, SC-5, VT-At Large, FL-13, IN-2, NJ-7, NY-29, CA-50, CO-4, NV-2, NY-25, NH-2, NV-3, KY-3.


Key Findings

  • Survey of the 50 most competitive congressional districts across the country finds that while republicans do a little bit better than they do in a nationwide sample, the numbers still point to trouble for the GOP.
  • By 2:1 respondents say the country is "on the wrong track" and nearly two-thirds say either the war or the economy are leading the country in the wrong direction.
  • The war in Iraq and the economy are the most important issues in deciding people's votes.
  • Bush's approval stands at 42 percent in these mostly Republican seats and only 3-in-10 plan to vote to reelect the incumbent representative.
  • The issue debate moves voters toward Democrats, particularly stem cell research.