Voters in the United States have already begun to cast their ballots for the House of Representatives, Senate and scores of state and local offices this year. As Election Day approaches, here’s a look at voters’ issue priorities, based primarily on a Pew Research Center survey conducted Oct. 10-16, 2022.
This Pew Research Center analysis looks at registered voters’ priorities ahead of the 2022 U.S. congressional elections. It is based primarily on a survey conducted among 5,098 adults, including 3,993 registered voters, from Oct. 10-16, 2022. More information about the survey’s questions and methodology can be found at the links in the text.
Everyone who took part in the surveys is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.
The economy has consistently been the top issue for voters this year. In the October survey, about eight-in-ten registered voters (79%) say the economy is very important when making their decision about who to vote for in the 2022 congressional elections, the highest share saying this about any of the 18 issues the survey asked about.
Americans’ views of the nation’s economy have been overwhelmingly negative in recent months. In the October survey, roughly eight-in-ten adults (82%) say economic conditions today are poor (36%) or only fair (46%). Just 17% say conditions are either excellent (2%) or good (16%).
The future of democracy is also a voting issue for many, with 70% of registered voters saying it is very important to their midterm vote. Six-in-ten or more say the same about education (64%), health care (63%), energy policy (61%) and violent crime (61%). And more than half of voters say the same about gun policy (57%) and abortion (56%).
The coronavirus outbreak ranks near the bottom of voters’ issue priorities, with 23% saying it is very important to their vote, down from a third who said this in March.
Voters’ issue priorities differ widely by party, as they have in past elections. While majorities in both parties say the economy is very important to their vote, voters who support or lean toward the Republican House candidate in their district are much more likely to say this than those who support or lean toward the Democratic candidate in their district (92% vs. 65%).
Other issues elicit even wider partisan divides. Around three-quarters of Republican voters say immigration (76%) and violent crime (74%) are very important to their vote. Democratic backers are far less likely to see each of these issues as very important (36% and 45%, respectively).
The top priorities for Democratic voters include the future of democracy in the U.S. (80% say this is very important to their vote), health care (79%) and abortion (75%). Republican voters are somewhat less likely than Democratic backers to say the future of democracy is very important to their vote (70% say this), but they are far less likely than Democratic voters to view health care (42%) or abortion (39%) as very important to their vote. Climate change also rates highly for Democratic supporters, with about two-thirds (68%) saying it is very important to their vote. Only 9% of Republican voters say the same.
The issue of abortion rose sharply in perceived importance after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. Between March and August, the percentage of registered voters who rated abortion as a very important election issue spiked 13 percentage points, from 43% to 56%. That share held steady through the fall: As of October, 56% of registered voters say abortion will be very important to their midterm vote.
The increase in concern has been driven largely by Democratic registered voters: 75% rated abortion as very important in the recent survey, little changed from August (71%) but up from 46% in March. About four-in-ten Republican registered voters (39%) said in October that abortion is a very important issue for their vote, roughly the same as the 41% who said this in August and the 40% who said this in March.
As of a few weeks before the midterms, nearly identical majorities of voters for candidates in both parties said they were “extremely” or “very” motivated to vote. In the October survey, eight-in-ten registered voters who support Republican candidates said they were highly motivated to do so, as did 79% of those who support Democrats.
Voter motivation differed by race and ethnicity at that stage of the election: 76% of White voters said they were extremely or very motivated to vote, compared with 63% of Black voters, 57% of Hispanic voters and 55% of Asian American voters. Differences by age group existed as well: 84% of those ages 65 and older said they were extremely or very motivated to vote, compared with only about half (51%) of voters ages 18 to 29.
Roughly two-thirds of registered voters say it “really matters” which party wins control of Congress, on par with the share of voters who said this in the run-up to the 2018 election. Since the spring, voters who support Republican candidates have been modestly more likely than those who support Democrats to say which party wins control in this election really matters. As of October, 76% of Republican backers and 72% of voters who support Democratic candidates say this. Republican voters are also much more likely than Democratic voters to say they have thought a lot about the upcoming election (49% vs. 38%).
In general, voters give this election cycle’s candidates low marks for explaining their plans for the country. Just 23% of registered voters say Republican candidates have done extremely or very well explaining their plans or visions for the country, while 19% say the same about Democratic candidates, as of the October survey.
While large majorities of voters in both parties say the opposing party has not done well in explaining their plans, fewer than half of voters who support Republicans (39%) say GOP candidates have done extremely or very well in explaining their plans; just 32% of Democratic voters say the same about Democratic candidates.