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Image: President Joe Biden speaks to supporters at Max S. Hayes High School on July 6, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio.
President Joe Biden speaks to supporters at Max S. Hayes High School on July 6, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio.Angelo Merendino / Getty Images

Democratic midterm message outperforms GOP's message, NBC News poll finds

But the advantage in core message only tells only part of the midterm story.


Beyond congressional preference, President Biden’s job rating and how the two parties fare on key issues, the new NBC News poll also tested the main Democratic vs. Republican midterm messages.

And the poll found more voters preferring the Democratic message over the GOP message — without using either Biden’s name, Donald Trump’s or mentioning either party — according to NBC’s bipartisan team of pollsters who conducted the survey.

“Candidate Jones” — the unnamed Democratic message — was described in the poll as someone who says the country needs to keep getting things done for working Americans by lowering health care and drug costs; who wants to ensure that corporations pay their fair share; who stands up for democracy and rejects election lies; and who opposes attempts to ban abortion. 

In the poll, 75% of registered voters said that describes them well, including 49% who said that describes them “very well.”

By contrast, “Candidate Smith” — the unnamed Republican message — was described as someone who says record-high gas and grocery prices are hurting Americans; who highlights the surge in violent crime and in migrants at the border; and who argues there needs to be change after lower student test scores as a result of Covid lockdown policies. 

In the poll, 68% of voters said that describes them well, including 41% “very well.”

When asked which candidate they would more likely support for Congress, 46% of voters picked Candidate Jones (the unnamed Democratic message), versus 32% who picked Candidate Smith (the unnamed GOP message). 

Yet testing unnamed messages — without using names of the parties or their leaders — doesn’t capture the full political picture. 

Indeed, actual congressional preference in the poll is tied at 46%-46% (versus 46%-32% on the unnamed messages).

And when you compare the messaging test with congressional preference, the poll finds more than 20% of Republican respondents picking “Candidate Jones.”

Bottom line: In a blind taste test, voters prefer the Democratic message, according to the poll. 

But voting and American politics aren’t blind taste tests.