The main issue voters are concerned about is the economy
With midterm elections approaching in November, the Republicans’ edge is growing, according to a new poll from the New York Times/Siena. The GOP is likely to take the House of Representatives and needs to flip only one seat to command a majority in the Senate.
The headline: 49% of likely voters say they would vote Republican if the election were held today, while only 45% say they would vote Democrat. That represents a nearly 5-percentage-point swing toward the GOP since the last Times/Siena poll in September. Notably, Independents prefer Republicans 51%-41%, and women, who powered Joe Biden’s victory in 2020, are now evenly split between the parties.
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Behind that headline number, however, is another factor that can easily get lost in the churn of the daily news cycle, with its focus on hot-button cultural issues, candidate gaffes and scandals. This election will be fought over the economy and inflation. No other issue comes close in terms of importance to voters.
When polled on the most important problem facing the country today, 26% of likely voters said “the economy”, while another 18% said “inflation or the cost of living”. Compare that to the other issues that have dominated headlines for the past six months: 8% for the state of democracy, 5% for abortion and immigration, 3% for climate change and crime, 2% for racism and the war in Ukraine, and 1% for guns, education, healthcare, and foreign policy. The Covid-19 pandemic, meanwhile, has virtually disappeared from public consciousness.
This spells trouble for Democrats. Since the Dobbs decision in June, Democratic pundits have hoped (and predicted) that anger over abortion access would drive voters, and especially women voters, to punish Republicans at the polls. The Congressional hearing-cum-TV-show that was the January 6th committee attempted to paint Republicans as would-be putschists who, if elected, would “end democracy as we know it.” Biden himself has repeatedly warned of “ultra-MAGA” extremists and the rising threat of “semi-fascism.”
So far, at least, it appears that voters aren’t buying it. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Incumbents tend to be punished at the midterms, and Biden is a particularly unpopular incumbent at a time when inflation is high and the US economy looks poised to enter a recession. Republicans, the more trusted party when it comes to economics, could still squander their advantage through poor candidate selection. But at a time when many in the media entertain themselves with talk of a new civil war, we can take some comfort in the fact that, for voters, this is gearing up to be a very normal election indeed.