A wave election is difficult to define, but Mark Barabak, with the Los Angeles Times, provided a good definition in 2014.
There is no authoritative definition of a wave election. (Which is not to be confused with a realigning election, like those in 1932 and 1968, in which a party forges a new and enduring presidential coalition.)
A wave election is commonly considered one in which a political party wins a large and lopsided number of House and Senate seats while sustaining minimal losses.[i]
The conventional wisdom on the upcoming 2018 election cycle goes this way: The public has turned against President Donald Trump, his agenda, and the Republican lawmakers. Thus, the 2018 elections will lead to major Democratic gains in the United States House, and potentially break the super-majorities enjoyed by Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly.
However, if a Blue Wave is coming to the Tar Heel State, what data backs up the theory?
The first step of the Blue Wave prophecy is a widespread job disapproval of President Trump. However, both the Meredith and Civitas polls show that President Trump’s North Carolina approval/disapproval ratings are essentially even. No fair reading of either poll shows an overwhelming disapproval of President Trump, which seems to show an initial crack of the Blue Wave rhetoric.
Plainly speaking, North Carolinians are not overwhelmingly outraged about the President’s job performance, which is critical in turnout for the Blue Wave.
As a test of voter motivation, polls will often use “generic ballot” questions. These questions test political parties against each other in generic elections, such as for Congress or the General Assembly. A typical generic ballot question would be, “If the 2018 election for Congress were held today, would you be voting for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate?”
Both polls asked generic ballot questions for North Carolina Congressional and state legislative elections. And still, both polls had surprising results in a year when Democrats are supposed to dominate in November.
Neither Congressional ballot question found an overwhelming lead for Democrats. Surprisingly, both polls show an essential tie for generic Congressional races.
The biggest surprises come from generic ballot questions for the North Carolina General Assembly. Progressive leftist groups – with names such as Flip NC and Flippable – have been organizing all over North Carolina and the state Democratic Party has been hosting candidate announcement events called “Blue Monday.”
And yet, neither the Meredith College or Civitas poll show any large advantage for either party.
The Meredith College poll shows Republicans with a slight lead in generic races for the General Assembly, while the Civitas poll shows the two parties in a tie.
Yet again, the data for an oncoming Blue Wave does not exist.
The calendar tends to be rather long in election years, and the public’s memory is proportionally short. Many things can happen in North Carolina politics over the next 259 days, so stay tuned in to the next statewide Civitas poll and other analysis.
[i] Barabak, Mark Z. “A wave or not a wave? That’s the question Nov. 4.” Los Angeles Times, October 10, 2014. http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-pn-a-midterm-wave-or-not-20141009-story.html.