Republican pollsters are nervous about President Trump’s approval rating and a generic ballot match-up that reliably favors Democrats, but a review of polling conducted before the last seven midterm elections shows the fate of the incumbent president’s party can rise or fall based on voters’ views of the direction of the country.
In 1994, 2006, 2010 and 2014 — all wave midterm years in which the president’s party lost a large number of House seats — voters overwhelmingly said the country was headed in the wrong direction.
In 2006, when Democrats reclaimed control of Congress, more than twice as many voters said America was on the wrong track as those who said the opposite. In 2010, when Republicans stormed back to the majority, just 32 percent said the country was headed in the right direction, while 59 percent said it was on the wrong track.
Years in which voter attitudes are more positive have been better for the incumbent’s party.