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A new poll finds tight races in key House battleground districts

Democrats have a notably small lead, given their hopes of taking back the House of Representatives in November.

A voting sign in Ohio in August 2018.
A voting sign in Ohio in August 2018.
Justin Merriman/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covered business and economics for Vox and wrote the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

With the 2018 midterm elections just two weeks away, it appears neither Democrats nor Republicans have much reason to breathe easy. A new poll of battleground House districts shows a tight race, with Democrats holding a small lead over Republicans that’s well within the margin of error.

A Washington Post/Schar School poll published on Tuesday found that in 69 of the most contested House districts in the country, 50 percent of voters support Democratic candidates and 47 percent support Republicans. As the Post notes, it’s a notably small lead for Democrats given their hopes of taking back the House of Representatives.

According to the Post:

Candidates from the two parties collectively are running almost even in 48 contested congressional districts won by President Trump in 2016, while Democrats hold the advantage in 21 competitive districts won by Hillary Clinton. The Democrats’ lead in those Clinton districts has narrowed a bit since the beginning of the month.

Sixty-three of the 69 districts polled are currently represented by Republicans. Democrats need to gain a net 23 seats to take control of the House; they face a much tougher map in the Senate.

Forecasts remain hopeful about Democrats’ chances: FiveThirtyEight gives Democrats a six in seven chance of winning the House. Individual polls can be wrong, and there’s still two weeks before the election, meaning circumstances could still change. But in the most important districts, the Post poll suggests it’s a tight race.

Nationally, Democrats have a bigger edge over Republicans. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released over the weekend found that 50 percent of likely voters want Democrats to control Congress, compared to 41 percent who want Republicans to maintain control. A RealClearPolitics average of polls gives Democrats a 7.7 percent generic ballot edge.

Of course, it’s the battleground states and specific districts that count.

Democrats and Republicans have very different opinions about what we should be worried about when it comes to allegations of sexual assault

The Washington Post/Schar School poll also asked respondents in battleground districts about their views on sexual assault allegations and now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whose nomination was marred by accusations of sexual misconduct and assault, which he denied.

Around six in 10 likely voters in both the Democratic and Republican parties said the fight over Kavanaugh increased their motivation to vote in the midterms, and half of independents said it motived them to go to the polls.

Pollsters also surveyed voters on what worries them more about sexual assault allegations: that women won’t be believed, or that men will be falsely accused. Ninety-eight percent of Democrats said they are concerned that women won’t be believed when they report sexual assault, compared to 63 percent of Republicans. On the flip side, 76 percent of Republicans said they’re more worried men will be falsely accused compared to 34 percent of Democrats. Overall, 78 percent of likely voters are worried about women being believed, and 57 percent about men they know being falsely accused.

Asked which is the bigger problem, 92 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents said women not being believed, while 69 percent of Republicans said false allegations against men was the bigger issue.

As Vox’s Anna North recently pointed out, made-up sexual assault cases are very rare — experts estimate that between 2 and 8 percent of sexual assault reports are false:

It’s difficult to determine exactly how many men have been falsely accused, but extrapolating from the number of men in America and the percentage of false reports (even using the highest estimates), it’s likely that fewer than 0.005 percent of American men are falsely accused each year.

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