- 49% of U.S. voters say economy is extremely important to their vote
- Roughly four in 10 attach same importance to abortion and crime
- Climate change last among seven issues, but important to Democrats
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Among the policy issues being debated and discussed this election year, the economy leads in importance to Americans. Nearly half of U.S. registered voters, 49%, say the economy will be extremely important to their vote for Congress. But abortion and crime are nearly as prominent; 42% and 40% of voters, respectively, say each of these is extremely important.
Gun policy and immigration constitute third-tier election issues, rated extremely important by 38% and 37% of voters, respectively.
Fewer, 31%, say relations with Russia is extremely important to their vote, while the 26% focused on climate change makes it the least influential issue tested in the Oct. 3-20 Gallup poll.
Voters’ Prioritization of Gun Policy Down Sharply Since June
Today’s rank order of issues is, with one exception, similar to what Gallup found in June. At that time, gun policy tied with the economy at the top of the list, rated extremely important by 55% of voters. That was shortly after the May 24 mass shooting at an Uvalde, Texas, elementary school forced a public reckoning on the gun issue. However, four months later, spanning the passage of a new federal gun violence law in June, gun policy has slipped 17 percentage points to the middle of the list.
None of the changes on the other issues are statistically meaningful, including the five-point decline in importance of the economy.
Economy’s Importance in 2022 Exceeds Most Prior Midterm Years
At 49%, the percentage of Americans now rating the economy as extremely important to their vote is still higher than Gallup has found in its final pre-election surveys in almost all prior midterm election years since 2002. The exception was in 2010, a time of high unemployment following the 2007-2009 recession, when 63% rated the economy an extremely important issue.
While many aspects of the economy could factor into voters’ assessment of its importance, continued high inflation is likely paramount. Inflation and mentions of the economy in general constitute the main economic concerns Americans have been citing each month this year when asked to name the most important problem facing the country.
Abortion is also taking on heightened significance to voters this year, with 42% rating it extremely important, far above the 27% and 17% who did so in 2006 and 2002, respectively.
The latest importance ratings for immigration and climate change are about average for these issues compared with prior years’ midterm ratings. Meanwhile, gun policy has been much more important in the past two midterm elections than in 2002 (which was the only other midterm year Gallup measured it).
This is the first midterm year that Gallup has asked about the importance of crime or relations with Russia to people’s vote, and thus it is not known if their relevance has changed.
Economy Is Top Issue for Republicans, Independents; Abortion for Democrats
While the economy is the most important issue for voters nationally, partisans don’t put equal weight on it. Rather, it leads Republicans’ and independents’ issue priority lists while it is a mid-tier issue for Democrats. Abortion ranks first on the Democrats’ list, closely followed by climate change.
The top three election issues for Republicans are the economy, immigration and crime; for independents, the economy, abortion and crime; and for Democrats, abortion, climate change and gun policy.
The varied rank orders by party reflect significant Republican-Democratic gaps in the importance ratings for most of the issues.
- Republicans are substantially more likely than Democrats to say immigration (+33), the economy (+31) and crime (+28) will be extremely important to their vote and are moderately more likely to rate relations with Russia (+10) and gun policy (+5) this important.
- Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to rate climate change extremely important, with the 40-point difference the largest for any issue.
- Democrats are also 14 points more likely than Republicans to prioritize abortion.
- Independents’ views are generally between the two partisan groups. However, the 38% of independents rating abortion highly important is on par with Republicans’ rating, while independents attach less importance to guns than either party group.
The slightly greater proportion of Republicans (44%) than Democrats (39%) saying gun policy will be extremely important to their vote is a change from June when the issue was more important to Democrats by 11 points (65% vs. 54%).
Abortion Ties With Economy as Women’s Top Issue
Women attach at least slightly more importance than men to all seven issues rated, but the gender gap is particularly wide for abortion. About half of women (51%) versus a third of men (32%) rate it as extremely important to their vote.
That 19-point difference is slightly greater than the abortion gender gap Gallup found in 2006 when the issue ranked much lower in overall relevance to voters. At that time, 33% of women registered voters versus 21% of men said abortion would be extremely important to their vote for Congress, a 12-point difference.
Women today are also notably more focused than men on crime (45% versus 35%) and immigration (40% versus 33%). All other gender differences are minimal.
The economy is a major factor this election cycle, with depressed consumer attitudes most likely responsible for President Joe Biden’s low job approval rating and continued low satisfaction with the direction of the country. It is also among the top issues Americans cite when asked to name the most important problem facing the country, and it remains the issue they are most likely to say is extremely important to their vote.
Fortunately for the Democrats, who are likely to take the brunt of voter backlash over the economy, it is not the only issue voters care about.
Abortion’s unusually high importance to voters this year should be helpful to the Democratic Party, both with Democratic turnout and swing voters. The issue’s high ranking as a voting issue conforms with a record-high percentage of Americans in May saying that a candidate must share their views on abortion. And at the time, committed “pro-choice” voters outnumbered committed “pro-life” voters for the first time, 17% to 10%.
But whatever advantage Democrats reap from the abortion issue could be offset by crime which is important to a similar proportion of voters. Also, earlier this year, it looked like gun control could be another issue in Democrats’ quiver, but intensity on that issue has abated, perhaps related to higher public concern about crime.
Overall, 2022 is among the most issue-heavy midterm elections the country has experienced in the past two decades. How the various top-rated issues influence the outcome of this election is unclear, given the cross-pressures some voters may feel on them.
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