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Economic discontent boosts GOP hopes as midterms draw to a close: POLL

Economic discontent boosts GOP hopes as midterms draw to a close: POLL

Economic discontent and President Joe Biden’s unpopularity continue to boost Republican prospects in the final days of the 2022 election campaign, with the share of Americans saying their financial doubling has worsened since Biden took office, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Given inflation stubbornly close to a 40-year high, 80% of likely voters in an ABC/Post poll cite the economy as a top issue in their vote for Congress; 77% say the same about inflation specifically. The Republican Party leads Democrats by a dozen or more percentage points in confidence they can handle each — and even more so on another issue: crime.

PHOTO: Gasoline prices continue to rise at gas stations in Los Angeles, 09/29/2022.

Gasoline prices continue to rise at gas stations in Los Angeles, Sept. 29, 2022.

Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images, FILE

Democrats respond with a significant lead in trust to address abortion. In a stunning result, the number of Americans who say abortion should be legal in all or most cases rose to 66%, the highest in an ABC/Post poll since 1995. That’s up 8 points from April, two months before the U.S. Supreme Court abolished the constitutional right to abortion. The change occurred almost exclusively among women.

View PDF for full results, graphs and tables

The public still opposes the High Court’s decision by a 2-1 margin in this poll, which was published by the ABC Langer Research Associates. But while 62% of likely voters call abortion a top issue on their ballot, that trails the economy by 18 points, inflation by 15 and crime by 7. Still, the abortion issue may have kept the GOP from fully nationalizing the election around the inflation issue — holding the uncertainty of the final outcome, from state to state and from district to district.

Voter preference

PHOTO: Poll on the preferences of Voices of the House

Overall, 49% of registered voters favor the Republican in their congressional district, 48% the Democrat. That’s a similar 50%-48% among likely voters. That marks a retreat from the Democratic lead of 7 points, 50%-43% among registered voters, in the last ABC/Post poll before the 2018 midterms, when Democrats were rallying.

That said, the Democrats’ position is less dire than a year ago, when Republicans had their largest midterm lead (51%-41%) in 40 years of ABC/Post polling.

Election results may differ from pre-election estimates, and the final change of seats in the House is in any case an open question; local issues can matter, and among other factors, typically at least 90% of incumbents are re-elected. The results in the Senate also cannot be seen until the vote is over.

But it’s clear that Democrats are facing headwinds. Forty-three percent of Americans say they are in a worse financial situation than they were two years ago — up dramatically from 20% in the 2020 National Exit Poll and 14% in 2018. Only 18% now say they are better off — down from half of what it was when Biden won office.

PHOTO: Survey on the financial situation of the family

Biden himself has a 41 percent approval rating among all adults — essentially the same as Trump’s 40 percent heading into the 2018 midterms, with attendant losses for his party.

As stated in our previous analysiswhen the president’s approval rating was below 50%, his party lost an average of 37 House seats since 1946. When it was over 50% — a level that Biden hadn’t seen in a year and a half — the average losses were far milder (14 places).

PHOTO: Biden's job approval poll

Another characteristic is the increasing number of changes from the presidential to the first mid-term elections, which indicates increased dissatisfaction on both sides. Trump’s party lost 42 parliamentary seats. His predecessor, Barack Obama, lost 63 seats in the House of Representatives (at a time of 9.6% unemployment). That’s an average of 53 seats lost in these last two first midterms — more than double the average loss (25 seats) in the 11 previous first midterms since 1946.

Rejection of choice

As for Biden, it’s worth noting that disapproving of his job performance is a different matter than disapproving of his election two years ago. Similar to the previous results, the public 62%-36% expressed the belief that Biden was legitimately elected. This includes 48% very confident versus 24% not at all confident.

Election denial plays a role in the GOP base — only 26% of Republicans say they are confident Biden won legitimately. But confidence jumped 40 points to 66% among independents, as well as 95% among Democrats.

About the main questions

Overall, the public trusts the parties equally to solve the “major problems facing the nation” — 42% choose Republicans, 40% choose Democrats. But it’s an issue on which Democrats have led more often, by an average of 5 points in ABC/Post polls since 1982.

The divisions are sharp on individual issues. Registered voters trust the Republican Party over the Democrats by 14 points on fighting the economy, by 12 points on fighting inflation and — by the GOP’s largest margin — 20 points on solving crime.

For its part, the Democratic Party leads by a large margin on two issues, both of which have lower importance — a 13-point lead on abortion and a 19-point lead on trust to address climate change.

On three other issues — education, immigration and threats to democracy — trust in the parties is more evenly split.

There is a bias in the levels of importance placed on these issues. Among Republicans, 93% call the economy the top issue in their vote, 90% say so about inflation, 86% crime and 77% immigration.

Far fewer Democrats cite any of these: the economy, 71%; inflation 67%; crime, 58%; and immigration, 51%. Instead, Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to choose abortion (81% to 47%) and climate change (75% to 20%) as their top topics.

The gender gap

There is a huge gender gap in voting preferences and it has grown sharply.

Women support Democratic over Republican candidates 59%-39% now, compared to 50%-42% in the last ABC/Post poll in September.

That matches the opposite result among men — they now more broadly favor Republican candidates, 59%-36%, compared with 52%-42% then.

The result is that the overall vote preference, among women and men combined, is almost identical to that of September.

The 9-point gain in the Democratic vote among women overall includes a +16-point gain among suburban women. At the same time, the overall voting preferences among women from the suburbs almost completely match those among women as a whole.

The gender gap between men and women is also reflected in different priorities and levels of trust. A large majority of women and men alike choose the economy as a top issue, but women are evenly split on which party they believe will handle it, while men favor the Republican Party on the economy by a wide 61%-28% margin.

On abortion, the tables are turned: women trust Democrats over Republicans to provide abortions by 59%-31%; men share roughly equally, 41%-45%. And 76% of women consider abortion an important issue in their vote, while only 47% of men say the same.

Abortion

The challenge is to assess the impact of abortion on elections. On the one hand, opposition to the Supreme Court’s ruling is widespread and, as noted, support for legal abortion has jumped to a record high, with essentially all gains among women. Propensity to vote has also increased among women, from 71% in September to 79% now, while it is stable among men. (In September it was those who were sure to vote; now it’s those who are sure or who have already voted.)

Still, more people overall don’t cite abortion as extremely important to their vote now than they did six weeks ago — and as noted, Democrats (and women) do so disproportionately. In another measure, supporters of the Supreme Court ruling are more likely to say they will vote (or have already voted) than critics of the decision (82% vs. 73%).

PHOTO: Survey on abortion

Nonetheless, some changes in support for legal abortion are remarkable. It is now 74% among women, compared to 62% last spring. (That compares with 57% among men, up from 55% previously.) The surge is especially steep among non-evangelical white Protestants (+21 points to 81%), in the South (+16 points to 64%) and in states that voted for Trump in 2020 (+15 points to 63%).

Among Republican women, support rose 15 points to 43%, while those who say abortion should be illegal in all cases fell from 34% to just 10%.

Furthermore, in the 14 states that have abolished nearly all abortion services, 63% now support legal abortion, up 20 points from April. In all other states it is 67%, essentially stable.

Who and why

Another election-focused result shows slightly more affirmative voting among Democratic voters than among those who support Republican candidates.

Fifty percent of those who support Democratic candidates say they mostly show support for the Democratic Party rather than the GOP opposition (28%), or some of both (15%). Among Republican voters, slightly fewer (42%) vote mainly to show support for the GOP. Again, 28% mostly oppose the other party, while 21% hold both motivations.

The last open question — and the critical one in any election — is who shows up, especially with increasing the number of early votes and absentee voting. In this poll, conducted from October 30 to November 2, 13% of registered voters say they have already voted. That’s essentially the same as at this point in 2018, when midterm turnout has reached its highest level since the war.

Methodology

This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cell phone from Oct. 30-Nov. 2, 2022, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,005 adults, including 881 registered voters. The results have a margin of sampling error of 4.0 percentage points, including the design effect. Partisan splits are 31%-29%-35%, Democrats-Republicans-Independents, among registered voters.

The poll was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Md. See details on the research methodology here.



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