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GOP Leads Pew Poll, But Surprises Still To Be Found

The Pew Research Center's final pre-election poll is out, and the headline is — no surprise — "GOP Likely to Recapture Control of House."

The poll, taken Thursday through Saturday, has likely voters favoring Republicans over Democrats, 48 percent to 42 percent, when asked who they'll vote for in House races Tuesday. Andy Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., says that gap narrowed slightly in this latest poll — it was 10 points in mid-October — but it’s not changed significantly since early September.

"There’s a consistency to the Republican lead," Kohut tells NPR’s Guy Raz. "It would seem pretty likely that the Republicans are going to have enough after this election to be the majority party" in the House.

The key difference, Kohut says, is the much-talked-about "enthusiasm gap." Republicans are simply more fired up about the midterms than Democrats.

"When we look at the views of all registered voters, there’s hardly any difference in terms of preference – in fact there’s a one-point Democratic advantage – but when we narrow it to likely voters, Republicans are up," Kohut says. "That’s a bigger difference between likely voters and all registered voters than we've seen in a very long period of time."

Seventy percent of Republicans say they’ve given this election a lot of thought, according to the poll. Only 55 percent of Democrats said the same.

And while jobs are a top concern for all voters, there's a huge difference on the issue of the deficit. Nineteen percent of voters overall said the deficit was their top concern. Among Republicans that number was 27 percent, but only 9 percent of Democrats said it was their top issue.

"For Democrats, it’s largely unemployment," Kohut says. Same for independents. "But for Republicans, it’s pretty much of a toss-up between jobs, the deficit and health care."

A year ago, war and immigration seemed like they might become top issues in this midterm. But, Kohut says, "when there’s a mega-issue like unemployment and the economy, generally a lot of the other issues – that are quite important to many people – just don’t have the salience in an election like this."

One of the surprises in this latest Pew poll for Kohut is the independent vote. Independents are leaning Republican 45 percent to 32 percent. "Four years ago, they voted heavily in favor of the Democrats and in the presidential election they helped elect Barack Obama," Kohut says. "This is the third election in a row where they voted against the party in power. They are not happy."

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