Russia story’s effect on midterm elections hard to gauge

With new revelations every week, the Russian election meddling story has made Washington dizzy for months, but pollsters in swing states are having a hard time seeing its impact beyond the Beltway — leaving forecasters of the midterm elections torn over the story’s potential impact.

“There is some bubble syndrome,” pollster Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research told The Washington Times.

Mr. Coker’s firm conducted significant polling in swing states during election season last year. Like other leading public opinion professionals, he argues that the murkiness of Russian activity and the lack of a clear “smoking gun” have not convinced voters far from the nation’s capital — especially the unaffiliated.

But pollsters also note that history favors Democrats — at least in the House of Representatives.

Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball, run by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, notes that since the Civil War the party controlled by the White House has lost seats in 36 of the 39 midterm elections.

Unaffiliated voters could make next year even more unpredictable. Donald Trump won the presidency partly by leveraging their anger against the status quo in Washington.

But the Russia story has bogged down the White House, and the perception is growing that Washington is even more paralyzed than before his victory, pollsters say.

Nationally, reports about Russia as a national threat lag behind the drama that grips Washington. The Pew Research Center’s latest survey on the subject was in January just before Mr. Trump moved into the White House. It found 79 percent of Americans felt that the Islamic State group posed a major threat while 54 percent said the same about “the power and influence of Russia.”

Pollsters note that the survey data bear a striking difference from April 2016, when 42 percent viewed “tensions with Russia” as a major threat. That survey had 37 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of Republicans viewing Russia

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