NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR (Virtual)
MODERATOR: Good morning, and welcome to the latest briefing in the New York Foreign Press Center’s 2022 U.S. Midterm Election series focused on battleground states and key races to watch. I would like to welcome the Foreign Press Center’s journalists as well as overseas journalists. My name is Mahvash Siddiqui, and I’m the moderator. First, I will go over the ground rules, and after that I will introduce our speaker. Following our speaker’s opening remarks, I will open the floor for questions.
Now for the ground rules. This briefing is on the record. Our briefer is an independent expert, and the views expressed by the briefer are his own. Our briefer is not affiliated with the Department of State or the U.S. Government and does not reflect the views of the Department of State or U.S. Government. Participation in Foreign Press Center programming does not imply endorsement, approval, or recommendation of briefers’ views.
For today’s briefing, we welcome Dr. John Zogby. Dr. Zogby is an internationally recognized public opinion pollster, author, and public speaker. He is founder of the Zogby International Poll. Dr. Zogby’s polling company has polled U.S. presidential voting preferences since the 1990s. Dr. Zogby is a frequent commentator on Huffington Post and contributes to media, including Forbes, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Financial Times. He has served as an onair election analyst for NBC News, BBC, CBC, ABC Australia, and has been featured by the Washington D.C. Foreign Press Center almost every election night since 1998.
And with that, it is my honor today to introduce Dr. Zogby. Over to you, sir.
MR ZOGBY: Thank you very much. Thank you for the invitation and thank you once again to the Foreign Press Centers both in New York and in D.C. And I’m going to get right into the main event, why we’re all here.
Let me begin first of all by saying, it is and it would be on my part malpractice if I were to make any kind of projection or any kind of prediction whatsoever, simply because I believe – here we are, October 26th – that I can’t. Nor do I feel that anyone else should, because as we’ll see these races are very, very close. And any movement that we see – and I’ve been through so many close races so many times – they are swinging one way, swinging another way, swinging back the original way, and then swinging back, and I don’t know when the swing ends.
There – today is October 26th, the election is November 8th, and there could be, to use the Latin phrase, deus ex machina – some sort of external event that changes the course of this election. So with that said, let’s talk first of all about the mood of the country.
Overall, the United States and its voters are in a very sour mood. Recent polls, including my own, put the key question – is the country headed in the right direction, or the wrong track – at 24 percent right direction. That is backed up by several other polls as well. The flipside to that is that over 70 percent feel the country is headed in the wrong direction. One might argue that that may be the only point of consensus between Democrats and Republicans, is the right direction, wrong track.
Now, there will be different folks blaming different folks, but suffice it to say that at least historically that right direction, wrong track number has its most serious impact on an incumbent president or CEO and on that incumbent’s party. And so we check a box for a negative for Democrats on that one. At the same time, a poll that I released on Forbes in conjunction with Forbes 10 days ago of 150 major business decision-makers in the United States put it at 74 percent of these business leaders who said that they expect a recession in 6 to 12 months. Well, that in itself could at the very least produce a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the kind of behavior that indeed can enable a recession to occur.
The – in terms of the mood of the country – as we’ll see, we’ll – we have two different sets of issues by the two different parties, but the fact is the Democrats had placed some hope in the fact that gas prices were heading downwards, and then we saw gas prices inching back up about 20 to 30 cents a gallon, and reports are that those gas prices may be going down again. Now, there are plenty of public opinion polls to take between now and November 8th, and if – we will have to see if those voters who are concerned about the price at the pump are locked in already and they’re negative, or not. We’ll have to see that.
Democrats had placed some hope not on eliminating record high inflation, but that perhaps the growth of inflation had been stemmed. And so it was 9.3 percent annualized a few months ago; 8.9, 8.3. Fact of the matter is it’s at 8 percent annualized as we speak, and it is the number one issue on voters’ minds.
And so with that said, let’s just say there is a foul mood governing this election, and hyperpolarization, which goes with our politics at least this century.
Now, with that said, I have referred to most of our national elections since the year 2000 as armageddon elections. Translated: If my side wins, thank God; if their side wins, this is the end of the world as we know it.
Well, this is another armageddon election, but it’s armageddon-plus. Because in every election in the past, there is a common set of issues that everybody agrees on, and one party says, this is how we will attack these issues, and the other party says, no, this is how we will attack these issues. The difference today: two different parties, two different sets of issues, two different realities, two different sets of facts to support those realities. It is like two planets revolving around the sun and on separate orbits.
And so let’s take a look at that. For the Democrats, not surprisingly – and obviously you follow this as closely as I do – they get a major boost from the abortion issue, pro-choice issue. In fact, to a great degree it is the pro-choice issue, the Dobbs decisions that superseded or ended the Roe v. Wade right to abortion, it is that issue that scored major gains for Democrats among women, particularly younger women, mothers, suburban women, college-educated women, and not college-educated women, to varying degrees. Why was that important? Because as you know, Democrats had been doing badly in – in the Senate races and congressional races going into May and into June. And this is when the prognosticators were suggesting that Democrats are going to – Republicans are going to make major, major gains.
Going back to 2021, we had two key barometric reading elections – in Virginia and in New Jersey. In Virginia, the Republican won – perhaps surprisingly. In New Jersey, the Republican came within 3 points but had been projected to lose by 10 or 11 points. And what was the factor in both women, those groups of women that I had mentioned, tilting over to Republican? On the basis of education. Elites’ control of what my children are taught, textbooks that are being used, critical race theory – you know that one, I’m sure – social and emotional learning. They can’t tell me what my kid should be taught in school. But with the Dobbs decision, we started to see women heading back to the Democratic camp. And frankly, that was a major factor in bringing women back and bringing Democrats back into line with, at the very least, a better showing that had been projected, even possibly holding onto the Senate and an outside chance at least of securing victory in the House.
The other issue that has done well for Democrats is the threat to democracy. That has been a major issue in rallying the democratic base – rallying women as well, rallying blacks who were on the fence, and even some appeal among swing voters, voters who are undecided but fear that Republican victory, especially 178 Republicans running for Congress who deny the results of the 2020 election.
So those two issues – January 6th in that mix – are issues that put Democrats back in the gain.
Now, on the flip side of that are the issues that work for Republicans. There are three. One, clearly, is inflation. Inflation is in the category of runaway inflation. It’s the major issue in national polls. It’s a high-intensity issue, because frankly it affects everyone – not just a target or a segment; everybody gets hurt by inflation. And it is back up in every poll as the number-one issue. And frankly, the biggest advantage that Republicans have on the issue of inflation is they’re out of power. So that’s a huge advantage. You don’t want to be in charge when people are suffering from 8 percent, 9 percent, whatever, inflation. That hurts Democrats, helps Republicans.
The second issue – you’re hearing a lot about it and in fact, in many ways, since Republicans really don’t have much of a plan to deal with inflation except to reduce government spending, the issue that is really connecting for Republicans is crime and public safety. So last time we saw crime as the number one issue in this country was in 1994, and it was during that election that, among other issues, Republicans won back control, first time in many years, of both houses of Congress. They won 40-something seats, as I recall.
This is an issue that plays well to Republicans where Republicans are able to portray Democrats soft on crime, soft on guns, defund the police, for Democrats a very unfortunate phrase that was coined during the George Floyd demonstrations. In any event, you see Republicans hammering on crime and public safety. And quite frankly, for those of you who are sitting in New York, it is an issue that once again is playing – may play in New York State, where the governor, Kathy Hochul, still favored to win, but had been in a runway victory and now it’s down to lower single digits against Republican Lee Zeldin.
The third issue that Republicans are making hay on is immigration. It is a cultural issue much more than it is even an economic issue, and as a cultural issue, it kind of breathes life into those Americans who feel that my world is going to hell – not just the economy, not just the stasis of government and government in action, but look at demographically. I look outside my window and I don’t see, quote, “real Americans” anymore. I see people that don’t look like you and me. In any event, it is an issue that resonates with the Republican base.
And so there you have it: two different worlds, two different issues, and let the battle begin. So now, heading into previous elections, I was always able to look at things very simply demographically and say, if there is a higher turnout of Latinos, of blacks, and of women, particularly young women, younger voters in general, that spells Democratic victories or a good Democratic showing. The problem is this year we have a number of variables, and so let’s go through them.
Let’s take first of all the Latino vote. Typically, in national elections, Democrats have been able to count on almost or even more than two-thirds of the Latino vote. And it’s been a mainstay for Democrats, meaning as the Latino vote has increased in size, then if there is a good Latino turnout, Democrats have a very good base to draw from. In fact, it was in 2010, 2014, when Democrats got pounded at the polls, a big reason – among the big reasons – was there was a low Latino voter turnout. 2018, the last congressional elections, there was a good size – not the size of a presidential year but good for an off-year election – a good size turnout of Latinos, and Democrats mopped up. They did quite well.
This time what polls are showing is that Latino voters are almost split between those who approve President Biden and those who disapprove President Biden’s job performance. When it comes to who they will vote for in – for Congress, that generic ballot, what we’re seeing is that at the highest, barely over 50 percent of Latinos say they’ll vote Democrat, about 40 percent say that they’ll vote Republican, but the rest are undecided. If Latino voters are undecided at this point, that’s trouble for Democrats.
Let’s go to the black vote, typically a Democrat, with a few exceptions only. A Democrat needs to count on 90 percent of the black vote. When Hillary Clinton only got in the mid-80s among black voters, that was troublesome. Donald Trump got low double digits among black voters, and that was enough to make Pennsylvania and Michigan, Wisconsin, and other centers competitive for him, even Georgia, even states that he lost, but it made it very competitive.
This time around, we are seeing two things among black voters. One is we’re seeing a higher than normal undecided vote. Now, remember, if 90 percent of black voters typically vote Democrat, then every undecided voter may be a vote that doesn’t show up, and that means pretty much a Democratic vote that is lost. The other problem that we’re seeing is that there are Republican candidates who are getting double digits, some as high as 15 to 18 percent, of the black vote. And that’s particularly coming from younger black men, and if that is the case November 8th, that could also be trouble.
The third issue is women, and what we’re watching very closely is where will women end up. Will pro-choice be the defining issue, as it was in July and in August and September? Or will women swing back on the basis – towards Republicans on the basis of inflation and education? That’s what we’re watching very closely.
Now, on the other side of the spectrum, there’s potential lurking shadows for Republicans, and that is, interestingly – because I didn’t expect it; I don’t think anybody else did – rural voters. Twenty percent of typical voters, according to exit polls and according to national polls, define themselves as living in rural areas, heavily Republican. What we’re starting to see, not only in our polls but in other national and statewide polls, is a small but growing number of rural voters who are saying they’re not sure, and they’re not sure or enthusiastic about voting. When you probe these rural voters, many of them are saying I don’t have to vote. We won on abortion, and now it’s pro-life. My state will be pro-life, and all of the enthusiasm or necessity of voting isn’t there any longer. Wow.
So we have a number of fascinating dynamics, so much so that that’s part one of why I hesitate to make any projections. Now, if I could – and you tell me, please – I have about 10 or 11 Senate races, and I’m happy to go through them like in one or two sentences and then end, or we can just open this up to questions right now.
MODERATOR: You’re welcome to go ahead and talk about Senate races for a few minutes and then I’ll go ahead and open it for questions. We’re doing pretty well on time. We have another 30 minutes to the end of the briefing.
MR ZOGBY: Okay. So I’m going to – these are really the shortened versions. Don’t get scared with the number of pages here.
MODERATOR: (Laughter.) That’s perfect.
MR ZOGBY: So let’s start with – these are Senate races that I believe are too close to call right now. Number one is New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan, Democrat, running for her first reelection against Don Bolduc, who is a MAGA candidate. I’m going to use that term because they use that term. That’s Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again.” There were early stumbles by Bolduc. I had taken New Hampshire off the list as a race to watch, but two new recent polls in New Hampshire now suggest that Maggie Hassan leads by low single digits’ momentum away from her. I still think Maggie Hassan wins, but I only think that. That’s one that is back on the watch list.
Pennsylvania – you know this one. I’m sure I’m going to get a bunch of questions about that. That was an 11-point lead by John Fetterman. As you know, right now one poll has it tied. We haven’t seen anything, obviously, since the debate last night. Most accounts, including my own, think that Fetterman probably did not do very well, although Pennsylvanians do not like Mehmet Oz. So this is one of those cases where you may see people not voting, and, of course, that would probably tend to hurt the Democrat, but right now Fetterman leads on average by 1.8 percentage points. That is very, very close, too close to call.
So is North Carolina. North Carolina right now – that features Ted Budd, 13th district congressman, a MAGA candidate endorsed by Donald Trump, against the former chief justice of the Supreme Court and a black woman by the name of Cheri Beasley. Cheri Beasley has only led in one or two polls along the way. That is trending towards Budd. He leads by an average of 4 percentage points. But again, there is a case where black turnout and Democratic turnout, especially on the abortion issue, could turn that race around. But as of now, still on the watch list because Budd’s lead, though trending, is not secure.
Wisconsin, wow. At the beginning of this year and through much of the year, Ron Johnson, Republican, was on the most endangered list of Republicans in the Senate. That was the target. Wisconsin Democrats nominated a progressive, a black candidate, the lieutenant governor by the name of Mandela Barnes. Through much of this race, Barnes has had a 2 or 3-point lead. Right now it’s trending back to Johnson. The latest – well, the average, Johnson leads by 2.8. But the latest poll – we really can’t go by one individual poll; I’ve got to see a trend – but the latest poll has Johnson up by 6. We’ve got to see where that’s going to go. I still say we’re gonna watch that one closely.
Florida was on the list. It looked like Val Demmings, former police chief of Orlando, three-term congresswoman, she was on the shortlist for Biden as a selection for vice president – she had gotten close to incumbent Marco Rubio. But right now Rubio leads by an average of 5, and a new poll that’s out just this morning – I haven’t had a chance to evaluate it yet – has Rubio leading by 11. I think that it’s safe to say that Rubio is probably in good shape. But as we say in chess, I’m not taking my finger off the pawn yet. I’m just gonna hold it and watch for a while.
Ohio – fascinating race. You have in Ohio J.D. Vance, who was kind of liberal icon – who loved his book about the middle class, Hillbilly Elegy – he’s from Ohio – Harvard Business School – but declared himself running for the United States Senate, and with Donald Trump’s endorsement and then lukewarm endorsement then hostile endorsement, and it’s crazy. Now, he’s running against Tim Ryan, a moderate congressman. They have – that’s a very nasty race. Right now Vance leads on average by just two. New poll out last night has Vance up by 4, but I’m gonna leave that wide open for now. I think advantage Vance, but I wouldn’t call a 4point race with this many days to go.
Now Arizona – Mark Kelly, the astronaut, he’s been in the Senate now for two years, running against Blake Masters, Stanford graduate and election denier, as many of these Republicans are, meaning he denies the Biden victory. Kelly has been leading throughout. He leads right now by an average of two and a half. Poll out just this morning, however, has Kelly leading by just one, so that’s trending downward for Democrats. But I mean, if it’s – if that changes leads, the downward spiral is not in Kelly’s favor, but we just have to see. One poll alone is not going to turn the tide. We have to see what the trendline is.
Georgia – wow. Georgia, for those of you who have been following American politics, Georgia is the new Florida. That is the bellwether. In fact, I will tell you on election night – because the polls will close at 8 o’clock in Pennsylvania and at 8 o’clock in Georgia – that we’ll have a pretty good sense of what’s going on. Like Pennsylvania, voter – early voter turnout is high. That should favor Democrats who tend to vote earlier, whereas Republicans vote election day, and their votes will not be counted completely until over the next few days. Raphael Warnock has been leading, not by much, but he has been leading over the last two or three weeks. The polls that have just come out in the last two days since the debate have Walker, Herschel Walker, the football star, leading by two percentage points. That is much too close; it depends entirely on turnout. And it depends particularly on black turnout, which is a substantial portion.
Now, two races that were not even on the – oh wait, Nevada, I’m sorry, Nevada. The first Latina ever elected to the Senate running for re-election is Catherine Cortez Masto. She’s been leading, but her lead against an iconic name in the state of Nevada, Laxalt – Adam Laxalt – has now dissipated. That one is tight; that’s too close to call. She is regarded as probably the most endangered of the Democrats. And that is just way too close to call, and it’s trending back and forth, back and forth. She had counted on, Democrats had counted on a big Latino vote, especially Latina vote for her, and that just isn’t materializing yet. So that – what I had described for you earlier as a problem for Democrats among Latinos, ground zero is the state of Nevada.
Now, two races that were not on the radar screen.
Okay. Iowa – Iowa is traditionally a swing state, but of late it’s been pretty red. It’s been pretty Republican. Talk about icons: Chuck Grassley, 89 years old, is running for his eighth term in the Senate, and of late – he’s been leading by double digits – of late his lead is down to 3 points among a very respected poll, the Des Moines Register. And we have to see if that’s a trend line or not. I suspect, as per tradition, the Des Moines Register will have another poll the Sunday before the election. I would have to say that’s a fascinating trend line to go from 11, 13 points down to 3 and to see if that can be sustained – running against Mike Franken, a businessman.
The other interesting one is another red state, Utah. Mike Lee has been around for a while. Mike Lee reliably conservative, but running against a more moderate Mitt Romney kind of conservative, Evan McMullin. Of the – as of the latest poll – now McMullin is a Republican, and of late the incumbent, Lee, is only leading 41 to 37 – the rest undecided. McMullin is counting on not only the more moderate Republicans, but on Independents and on Democrats, because they’re not Democrat in the race. If an incumbent is polling only 41 percent at this point and leading by low single digits at this point, that is not good for the incumbent candidate. For the record, Evan McMullin has indicated that he will not caucus if he’s elected with either the Democrats or the Republicans, which will make things most interesting in the world that is already very interesting.
Finally, that congressional generic that we all use, kind of imperfect – my role – my rule with the congressional generic is, given the way the seats are apportioned in the United States, Democrats needs to be ahead by 4 or 5 points in that national vote in order for them to secure their place. Anything above that, they start to pick up seats. Now on average as of last night, the Republicans lead that generic by 3, but there are two new polls out this morning by Axios and by Politico. Axios has the Democrats leading by 5, and Politico has the Democrats leading by 3. So it’s complicated; it’s close. The battle for the issues will continue. It all depends on turnout.
And go ahead, hit me with your best shots, okay? Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Dr. Zogby, for sharing your expertise with us. Appreciate your very informative and enlightening presentation. Let’s open the floor for questions. If you have a question, please raise your virtual hand and wait for me to call on you. When called on, please enable both your audio and your video and identify yourself by your full name and your media outlet. You’re also welcome to type your question in the main chatroom. I’m going to go ahead and now turn to Robert Papa to ask the very maiden question. Go ahead, Robert. Please announce your media outlet.
QUESTION: (No response.)
MODERATOR: Robert Papa, kindly unmute yourself and —
QUESTION: Yeah, I got it. You hear me?
MODERATOR: Yes, sir, we do.
- ZOGBY: I can now.
QUESTION: I want to know, do we have any data how the Albanian Americans vote, Serbian Americans, Greek – people from the Balkans? Do they have the kind of impact, let’s say, to the (inaudible) that, please?
MR ZOGBY: I’m glad you asked that question. I’m sorry to disappoint you – I apologize – no, I don’t. I have polled Serbians and other Eastern European groups in the past, but I have not this cycle and I don’t know of anyone else who has. And I can only assume – and this is merely an assumption – that it’s probably about the economy more than anything else, although I might suggest that the status of democracy may also be weighing on those who are from younger democracies. But honestly that’s speculation on my part.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
MODERATOR: Thank you. By the way, that was Robert Papa from MCN TV, Albania. And —
MR ZOGBY: My daughterinlaw is Albanian, and I have three grandchildren who are half Albanian.
QUESTION: Oh, that’s great. That’s great. What’s her name?
MR ZOGBY: Nertila Gegollari.
QUESTION: Nice. Nice name. Nice name.
MR ZOGBY: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. Now I’ll turn to Luìs Costa Ribas from CNN Portugal. Please go ahead and unmute yourself, Luis.
QUESTION: Hi, good morning. A quick couple of questions from Dr. Zogby. One, when you say people are worried about the economy, are we to assume that that’s necessarily bad for the Democrats? Because there’s nothing keeping people from thinking: yeah, the economy is not doing so well, but if the Republicans win, it’s going to be even worse. The second question – I don’t know if that particularly difference in attitude has been polled or not. Second question is: why do you think it’s so difficult nowadays to get more reliable polling? Sometimes I see some of the media organizations, on races that are very close, they’re doing polling with 5 percent possible variations. You think it’s just because they’re not using big enough samples? Is there – how can polls be more reliable? Because media organizations continue to rely on them to make quote/unquote “predictions,” then at the end of the day they’re very often more wrong than they used to be in the past. Thank you.
MR ZOGBY: Two very good and complicated questions. First of all, on the issue of the economy, just in terms of the public face of it, President and the Democrats I believe correctly focus on the very low unemployment, the numbers of millions of jobs that have been created, the stabilization of employment, and the rise in wages given what the President inherited. On the other hand, the public is talking about inflation. Now, that tends, then, to spell bad news for the incumbent. If that’s what people are talking about, that’s where they say they’re hurting, then the incumbent is hurt.
Now, does that spell necessarily a Republican victory? No, not necessarily. One would have to suggest – and I’ve been asked this before – hey, if inflation is such a big issue and it is a major reason why the President’s numbers are lower than they should be, then why aren’t the Republicans running away with this? Why isn’t it a landslide? And the fact is that the Republicans have the issue of abortion to deal with. They have the issue of the threat to democracy, January 6th, to deal with. They have the issue of – we’re going to have to see how this plays out – student loans. On one hand, the President is attempting to forgive student loans; on the other hand, being blocked by federal courts, who feature judges who have been appointed by him. So it’s a complicated kind of situation.
I’m going to shock you and tell you I think the polls are doing okay. Yes, it is much more difficult to reach people. I go back to 1984, when two out of three people who answer the phone – well, for starters, they answer the phone. But two out of three people who answer the phone said yes, I’ll take a survey. That has changed so dramatically. Response rates are dismal now. We’ve pioneered in online polling and rely on that very heavily.
But I don’t think polls should be used as predictive tools. I don’t even think they should be used as gospel predictive tools even the day before anymore. I think what they do is they can show us trend lines. They can show us the mood of voters. They can show us who’s ahead, just like a scale can show me you’re losing 10 – you’ve lost two pounds, you need to lose 10 more by election day, but that’s not going to predict whether I’m going to lose those remaining 10 pounds; it’s only going to say this is where I stand today. Now, if it’s four pounds tomorrow, six pounds the day after, maybe we’re onto something, but I think the polls are doing a creditable enough job in at least telling us these are very close races, there are swings back and forth, and we wait for the real results to come in.
MODERATOR: Thank you for that. I’ll turn now to Alex. Alex, please go ahead and unmute yourself, and please go ahead and announce your media outlet and your full name. Thank you.
QUESTION: Of course. Thank you so much, Mahvash. This Alex Raufoglu from Turan News Agency of Azerbaijan. John, welcome back to the FPC, albeit virtual this time. Great to see you.
MR ZOGBY: Thank you.
QUESTION: Two questions here. You briefly spoke about flipped House seats, and I want to put in the context if possible 66 new Democrats won House races in 2018, right, flipping 41 Republican seats, and Republicans took back 14 new seats in 2020, and those GOP victories included defeating a dozen of Democrats elected for the first time the previous cycle. What are your expectations for next month on this trend?
And secondly, about Ukrainian Americans and the war, of course, which is also seen as domestic political issues this year, as you know, Democratic support is deepened by the immigrant – important role of Ukrainian Americans, thought to represent about 1 million people, if I’m not mistaken. And they are all the more swayed because they are concentrated in swing states. Now, given that, how much do you see the latest rhetoric around the conflict – increasing attacks against the administration on the Republicans, and also, of course, now retracted letter from Democrat – from liberal Democrats, all these events of the day – how much do you view them as a reflection of quote/unquote “October surprise,” and if so (inaudible) states and seats are they targeting in particular? Thank you so much.
MR ZOGBY: Alex, those are two great questions. The first one, again, to be totally honest with you, I can see all three scenarios taking place in terms of projecting on November 8th, or November 9th, or 10th, or whatever it is. I can see a last-minute swing, kind of like what we had that elected Ronald Reagan in 1980 – polls were very close and then the dam burst, kind of like, frankly, 2012 with Barack Obama. That was a very tight race with Mitt Romney, and then it swung. 2018, I don’t think anybody was expecting such a huge Democratic victory – Democratic victory, yes, but not necessarily that huge. What took place is the dam broke the weekend before and you started to see groups, especially undecideds, making their decision, number one, to vote, and number two, to vote against the incumbent.
I can see either a big Republican swing; I can see, frankly, on the issue of choice and possibly – possibly – the issue of Ukraine and foreign war and Russia – I can see a big swing to the left as well, or that we just take this and it becomes, as many of the non-polling prognosticators are suggesting, maybe small gains for the Republicans. I know that that appears to be dodging your question, but it would be totally irresponsible for me, and I believe anybody else, honestly, to make any projection on what’s going to happen. There are just too many variables out there.
Now, zeroing in on your second question, it’s hard to get Ukraine into the mix of issues when you’ve got inflation, you’ve got the threat of democracy, you’ve got crime and public safety, you’ve got immigration, you’ve got climate change, for example. So the issue of Ukraine, there’s an awful war going on. The sides are (inaudible). The majority of Americans do not want to have boots on the ground, to be sure, in Ukraine; but the majority of Americans, who also do not want war against Russia, are for supplying and supporting the Ukrainians in their battle. Republicans are split, but the louder voices among Republicans, the MAGA voices, give every indication that they would cut and withdraw spending.
Ukrainian Americans, I have learned – I’ve polled them in the past – but Ukrainian Americans are well-positioned both in terms of being influencers in their communities and of being in key swing states. And there’s a huge amount of sympathy for Ukrainians. My wife and I just attended a fundraiser that’s always huge – a fundraiser for a church, I should say – but the outpouring this year, just in our local community, was twice, triple what it normally is. And so if there is to be what I referred to earlier as that deus ex machina, that outside force, it could be, in the last minute, something to do with foreign policy and something over which a president can control as opposed to have to wait for Congress.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. Very helpful.
MR ZOGBY: Thank you.
MODERATOR: (Inaudible) question, and I’ll turn to Martin Burcharth. Please go ahead and unmute yourself and announce your media outlet as well, please. Thank you.
MR ZOGBY: Hey, Martin.
QUESTION: Yeah, hi. Hi, John.
MR ZOGBY: Hey, how are you?
QUESTION: Good to see you.
MR ZOGBY: Good seeing you.
QUESTION: Yeah, good, my friend. So two questions, one first about the Democrats, how they run their races. Obviously, it’s not a presidential race. It’s a congressional race. So it’s difficult to kind of gather around one topic. In The American Prospect yesterday, your colleague Stan Greenberg had a piece about how the Democrats basically have failed in not talking about the economy. And so I wonder – it’s a difficult subject for them, obviously, because of inflation. But do you think they made a mistake not doing that, or kind of just trying to explain what’s going on with the economy?
Secondly, did the Republicans make a mistake not advertising kind of a contract with America, a la Newt Gingrich in the 90s? Because it’s hard to know for people who want to vote Republican, what are they actually going to do?
MR ZOGBY: Two mistakes, and let’s see which one cancels the other out. On the Democratic side, Democrats decided, it appears, to ride the wave of the Dobbs decision because it really put points on the board for them. And then in terms of rallying the base, January 6 and the threat to democracy was very important. You did have Joe Biden go out there and talk about the various economic initiatives, and the fact that jobs have been created and wages are up and people are hiring and so on.
But I think where they missed out, and what Robert Rice was talking about and Stan Greenberg as well, is blame. If – he needs to rally progressives, and be very careful because that can turn centrist voters off. But I think everybody agrees oil profits are up; other profits are up. Why are oil prices, oil profits, up when gas prices are going through the roof? So yes, that is a mistake. I would recommend – I’m going to recommend for Republicans, too, so I’m going to be fair – but I would recommend that in the closing days, that the President go what I would call full-on Harry Truman. Harry Truman was losing his race in 1948, and he did a whistle-stop tour, nonstop, everywhere, everywhere – give ‘em hell, Harry. And he talked about the powers that be, the lobbyists in Washington, the Republicans who were do-nothing – and he won. And he won, and he brought Democrats with him. They regained control of the House of Representatives.
And so in this instance, I think that Biden can do it, health providing. But that is one thing that Biden has going for him: Americans have a residual – they like Joe Biden. They like Uncle Joe. What they don’t like, and what he doesn’t need, are smart-ass consultants who think they know everything and don’t realize that they have a resource in this president. Joe Biden is believable. Joe Biden makes mistakes, like all of us make mistakes. Let Joe be Joe.
Now, the Republicans, and the premise for the Republicans. All right. What the Republicans have done is – sorry for the basketball analogy, but in the NBA and in college – the NBA has a 24-second rule, and college has a 30-second rule. You have to shoot for the basket. It used to be – I’m old enough to remember when some college basketball games were 4 to 2. Why? Because one team got the ball after it made a basket, and just held onto the ball, held onto the ball. You hold onto the ball and you keep the 2 point lead. I think that that’s what the Republicans were figuring. They had high intensity, they had a president who had become the president with low approval ratings, and just dribbled the ball until the end. And the fact of the matter is that the polls showed it doesn’t work that way; that in fact, there was – for a while, anyway – a Democratic resurgence in the polls. I mean, the Republicans are coming back, but those new polls that are out today, the congressional generic, I’ve got to see if that’s a trend line. I think they may have made a mistake, and they may – maybe – have peaked too early.
What would I tell the Republicans? Lay out what you’re going to do. That’s a tough one. Don’t say, cut government spending; there are a lot of Americans who have benefitted from government spending.
QUESTION: I agree. Thanks.
MODERATOR: Thank you for that question. I’m now going to turn to Maral Noshad Sharifi. Please go ahead and unmute yourself, and please announce your full name and your media outlet. Thank you.
QUESTION: Hi, everyone. My name is Maral Noshad Sharifi. I cover the U.S. news for Dutch newspaper Volkskrant. Thank you so much for talking to us, Mr. Zogby. I’m very curious why you – what factors explain the success of these election deniers? I’ve been following a few of them and I’ve been watching then from close, and a lot of these candidates seem – they’re very funny, and they can be very charming, but they’re also spreading a lot of lies. And I wonder what explains their success. What factors do you see?
MR ZOGBY: You are in the Netherlands, you are in Europe, and you see it in Europe in so many ways. The levels of trust here and in Western countries towards government institutions, political institutions, the church, almost everything, is really at a low point in our lifetime, anyway.
Getting back to the United States exclusively, the numbers of people that trust the government to do the right thing, the numbers of people that trust either political party, and even Republicans towards the Republican Party and Democrats towards the Democratic Party, are really at all-time lows. And so that’s the context for all of this.
What also is the context is the sense that everything is falling apart around us. And it is. The – everything from how we employ people to – everything is just in a period of creative destruction. To many, my world is crashing, and what is to blame? Well, people that don’t look like me, that’s a good start, let’s say. And government institutions that don’t care about me, okay. An economy where my kids are doing worse than I am, and they don’t know their future; frankly, I don’t know my future, either.
And so you have this broad context, and then you have political parties that are enabling it. I blame both parties. I’m going to say that Republicans deserve more blame, because Donald Trump – we never had a president before or someone running for office on that level who was simply going to appeal to the basest instincts, the worst fears that American have. And he did, and it worked. Interestingly, one can make an argument – and history will report this – that the presidential elections of 2000, 2004, 2016, in which Democrats won but lost, certainly taught Democrats to not be very hopeful or very trusting in political parties and the political system. But Trump was able to successfully put this all together and to create a boogeyman, to create – in a context where social media rules and where he was able to rule social media – those actually at fault. He enabled conspiracy theories, and unfortunately conspiracy theories are working. I could go on, but I think that that’s kind of the broad context of what you’re looking for.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Maral. I turn to Shincihi Akiyama. Please go ahead and unmute yourself and announce your media outlet. Thank you.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you for doing this. And my name is Shincihi Akiyama, Mainichi Newspaper, Japan. You mentioned that more Latino voters are now supporting Republicans. Why is that, especially in states like Nevada, Arizona, and Florida?
MR ZOGBY: Okay, so what we know about Latino voters – 40 percent of Latino voters always self-identified as conservative. However, when it came to voting in nationwide elections, anywhere from 28 to 38 percent – George W. Bush got 38 percent. In 2004, John McCain, Mitt Romney, 28, 29 percent. They never had a Republican that they trusted. And immigration was a big issue, but so was the federal government and federal entitlements. This time around, the fastest growing elements among Latino voters are, number one, the growth of evangelical Latinos, who, when I started tracking them, were 19 percent of total Latino vote. They’re now about 26, 27 percent. That’s substantial. And they are – they vote conservative.
Number two, we have an influx of Latinos coming in from Venezuela, from Nicaragua, from Cuba, who are battling socialism and have left their countries because – not only socialism; bad socialism, bad rulers – and they are of age now. They’ve been here long enough where they’ve been registering to vote, and they’ve been voting and voting reliably Republican. Almost kind of a perfect storm. And then thirdly, you have the working class. There’s a split between workingclass and more middle-class and more successful Latinos, with working-class saying: you know, what have the Democrats delivered for me? They’re – those are bread-and-butter kinds of issues. And so now, how all this will turn out November 8th, I’m not sure. But the polls have been pretty consistent that more Latinos appear to be voting Republican than in previous elections.
QUESTION: Thank you. So you think that this trend will continue in the future, and maybe in the future it will be opposite?
MR ZOGBY: Well, I’m gonna put this in non-ethnic terms. Every party, when it wins, has a chance to screw up things on its own. So I’m not going to make any long-term predictions. Demographic predictions, yeah – you’re going to see a continued rise in the number of conservative Latino voters on one hand. But on the other hand, whether or not they will be served well by the Republican Party or the Democratic Party depends on circumstances on the ground.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Shincihi, for that question. I’ll now turn to Wajid Syed. Could you please go ahead and unmute yourself and go ahead and announce your media outlet? Thank you.
QUESTION: (No response.)
QUESTION: (No response.)
MODERATOR: Okay, I guess he’s – maybe his camera or his microphone is not working. I’m going to go ahead and ask you some questions that were pre-submitted, sir. So we’ve had a question from Mien Nguyen, Thahn Nien Vietnam, a Vietnamese media outlet: “Dear Dr. Zogby, it’s quite fascinating that your list of watch-out Senate races came out at 10 to 11, much longer from what I observed recently. Could you name the Senate seats most likely to flip based on the newest polls or data? The second question is about Asian voices. What states do you think are depending more on Asian voices for the result?”
MR ZOGBY: Okay. Two good questions. So first of all, those were – those are elections that are just too close. So if I were to have to pick three most likely to flip – see, that’s changed now. And Pennsylvania was; I’m not so sure anymore. Wisconsin was; I’m not so sure anymore. I would say probably Nevada is one where I think that the incumbent is on the ropes for sure. But I also honestly believe to watch Iowa. That was quite unexpected that that race tightened up. That’s a reliably Republican seat for forever, half a century, and here it is now a 3-point race. So I’ll just pick those two. Otherwise, too close.
MODERATOR: Great, thank you for that. There’s a question from Markus Bernsen, Weekendavisen, Denmark. Basically, he asks: “Does foreign policy – China, Russia, Ukraine – play any role at all according to the polls?”
MR ZOGBY: It does in two respects. One, obviously, is the economy, and especially now with the war in Ukraine and the price of oil, and at the same time what is perceived in this country as Chinese aggression, aggressiveness and a loss of American faith, America’s competitive edge and world leadership. Those play heavily, and they play heavily particularly two different extremes – on one hand, among conservative Americans who say, look at what the Democrats have done, they’ve lost America’s leadership position; two, traditional Democratic groups, working class voters, who are saying, I’m still suffering from the jobs that have been shipped overseas. So in that regard, economically.
On the other hand, the war in Ukraine, as I talked about earlier, cannot be underplayed. That is a live war and it’s a video war, and rarely have we been able to see on the ground (inaudible) who have – who are literally being destroyed. And we’re seeing not only, on the one hand, Russian aggressiveness, but on the other hand, Americans, I think, feeling a sense of loyalty to David in the battle of David versus Goliath.
MODERATOR: Thank you for that. I’m going to turn to Wajid again. Are you able to unmute yourself?
QUESTION: Yes, thank you very much. I’m sorry. There was something wrong with the microphone. Thank you for doing this. I’m really enjoying this whole conversation. My questions are two and three-part. You mentioned “people who don’t look like me” term a couple of time, and I’m wondering, could it be called as a reaction from the white rural population? And also, how do you think that’s going to play for or against Democrats, given – keeping the fact in mind that more and more South Asians are participating and winning congressional polls? Thank you.
MR ZOGBY: Yes, okay. And somebody just did ask me about the Asian vote. Remind me to get back to that one.
So I mentioned the broader context of the numbers of Americans who are saying, my world is going to hell in a handbasket. New and different kinds of jobs, lower paying jobs, so I’m not financially secure anymore; my communities, my world looks different; America is not in a leadership position anymore. And at the same time, demographically, there has been enough talk about a majority minority by 2042. That was one thing when it was 1998 or 2010, but now 2042 and maybe even sooner, and definitely sooner in many communities, large and small, that are – have majorities or near-majorities that are nonwhite. This is a very familiar and convenient explanation for people. The demographics have changed, my world’s gone to hell, therefore that’s what’s – that’s the connecting point.
In that sense, then, that should benefit Democrats, because that blaming of non-whites is not a majority position. But my business doesn’t only work on majorities. It works on intensities. And right now the high intensity is that 42 percent who are Donald Trump, who are MAGA, who are election denier, who are in that blame game – and that 42 percent is showing up to vote. They will vote on election day. Now, with that said, it should benefit Democrats. The Democrats have many non-whites. And as I used to always say, if you continue the spiral upward of heavier Latino voting, heavier black voting, heavier voting among women, particularly young women, that should benefit Democrats. But there were – I hope that this translate well – chinks in that armor that I pointed out earlier, that those groups – there may be just enough of those groups either not voting or voting Republican to make this a much more complicated thing.
Now, somebody asked about Asians, Asians as a whole. And look, such a crazy term. I’m an Arab American. The only thing that connects Iraq with Mauritania is the language, right? But Asians, you’re going from, what, the Philippines and Japan to Afghanistan and Iran and India, Pakistan, China. So – but Asian Americans – California, certainly in some key congressional races, they do tend to vote Democrat. Almost three out of four Democrat. So we’re going to watch that one.
The state of Washington – I didn’t mention Patty Murray’s race because it had tightened up against Tiffany Smiley, but then Patty Murray is again in the 8 or 9-point margin. But that’s certainly one where it could play. I think the Asian vote can play also in Oregon, to be sure, where you have a very close gubernatorial race, with three candidates in the race, and the two front-runners, the Democrat and the Republican, are within one point of each other.
MODERATOR: Well, thank you for that. Sir, I know you’ve been extremely generous with your time, and your phone’s ringing off the hook. Would you like to continue or should I end the conversation at this point?
MR ZOGBY: Let’s do two more.
MODERATOR: Excellent. Thank you so much for your generosity. So the next question is from Jana Ciglerova, from Denik News, Czech Republic: “Is there going to be a red wave?”
MR ZOGBY: Okay. So I’m going to do some breaking new right here: I don’t know. (Laughter.) Could there be? Yes. But I think it’s much too early. (Sneezes.)
MODERATOR: Bless you.
MR ZOGBY: I am holding up here. Okay. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Great. Very last question from Min Kwon, Christian Broadcasting Systems, Korea. The question is: “North Korea is expected to press a nuclear test button soon. If they press the button before the election, do you think it could affect the results of the election? Why or how?”
MR ZOGBY: Oh, wow. Anybody pressing a nuclear button is going to have a huge impact, and a test for the President of the United States. Well, since I’m offering advice today, I would say to Kim, young Kim don’t do it, okay – there’ s a number of reasons to do it but certainly one of those reasons is the serious consequences that would be faced. And if you do not like Joe Biden, that would be the sort of thing that would help Joe Biden and help the Democrats significantly.
Let me add that as we speak, with the exception of two polls that bend on the Republican side, Biden’s numbers are just good enough so that he cannot be ruled as an albatross around the neck of Democrats. He’s at about 44, 45 percent on the more recent polls. And so it’s not the 38 or 39 percent that had been a drag before.
MODERATOR: Great. Well, thank you so much, sir. We are out of time. On behalf of the U.S. Department of State, I would like to thank Dr. Zogby for being with us today and enlightening us all. Today’s briefing was on the record. I will share a transcript with everyone who’s participating today, and it will also be posted on our website, fpc.state.gov. Please share with me any media stories you publish based on any of the election briefings that we’ve hosted thus far.
Thank you all and have a wonderful day. And thank you so much, sir, it was such a privilege.
MR ZOGBY: Thank you, and I’ll see you in 2024.
MODERATOR: Looking forward. Take care.
MR ZOGBY: You, too. Bye-bye, now.