Economic discontent fuels GOP hopes- as midterms draw to a close

Economic discontent fuels GOP hopes Economic discontent and President Joe Biden’s unpopularity continue to fuel Republican prospects in the closing days of the 2022 midterm election campaign, with the share of Americans saying they’ve gotten worse off financially doubling since Biden took office, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.

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

The Democrats reply with a significant lead in trust to handle abortion. In a striking result, the number of Americans who say abortion should be legal in all or most cases has surged to 66%, the highest in ABC/Post polls since 1995. That is up 8 points just since April, two months before the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion. The change came almost exclusively among women.

See PDF for full results, charts and tables

The public continues to oppose the high court’s decision by 2-1 in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. But while 62% of likely voters call abortion a top issue in their vote, that trails the economy by 18 points, inflation by 15 and crime by 7. Still, the abortion issue may have prevented the GOP from fully nationalizing the election around the issue of inflation — keeping the eventual outcome, state-by-state and district-by-district, uncertain.

Voter preference. Economic discontent fuels GOP hopes

PHOTO: House Votes Preferences Poll
ABC News

All told, 49% of registered voters favor the Republican in their congressional district, 48% the Democrat. It’s a similar 50%-48% among likely voters. That marks a retreat from a 7-point Democratic advantage, 50%-43% among registered voters, in the last ABC/Post poll before the 2018 midterms, when the Democrats romped. Economic discontent fuels GOP hopes Economic discontent fuels GOP hopes

That said, the Democrats’ position is less dire than a year ago, when the Republicans held their largest midterm lead (51%-41%) in 40 years of ABC/Post polling.MORE: As voters fret the economy, Dems narrow in on new message: Save Social Security, Medicare from GOP

Election results can differ from pre-election estimates, and the ultimate change in House seats is an open question in any case; local issues can matter, and among other factors, typically at least 90% of incumbents are re-elected. Results in the Senate, likewise, can’t be discerned until the voting is done.

But clearly, the Democrats face stiff headwinds. Forty-three percent of Americans say they’re worse off financially than they were two years ago — up dramatically from 20% in the 2020 national exit poll and 14% in 2018. Just 18% now say they’re better off — less than half what it was when Biden won office.

PHOTO: Family's Financial Situation Poll
ABC News

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

As noted in our previous analysis, when a president’s approval rating has been less than 50%, his party has lost, on average, 37 House seats in midterms since 1946. When it’s been over 50% — a level Biden hasn’t seen in a year and a half — average losses have been far milder (14 seats).

PHOTO: Biden Job Approval Poll
ABC News

Another feature is the increasing size of swings from presidential to first midterm elections, suggesting heightened dissatisfaction with both sides. Trump’s party lost 42 House seats. His predecessor, Barack Obama, lost 63 House seats (at a time of 9.6% unemployment). That’s an average of 53 lost seats in these two most recent first midterms — double the average losses (25 seats) in the 11 preceding first midterm elections since 1946.

Election denial. Economic discontent fuels GOP hopes Economic discontent fuels GOP hopes

On Biden, it’s worth noting that disapproval of his job performance is a different thing from rejecting his election two years ago. Similar to previous results, the public by 62%-36% expresses confidence that Biden was legitimately elected. That includes 48% very confident vs. 24% not at all confident.MORE: How Donald Trump is shaping the midterms for Republicans

Election denial does play in the GOP base — just 26% of Republicans say they are confident Biden legitimately won. But confidence jumps by 40 points, to 66% among independents, as well as to 95% among Democrats.

On the main issues

Overall, the public trusts the parties about equally to handle “the main problems the nation faces” — 42% pick the Republicans, 40% the Democrats. But that’s a question on which the Democrats more often have led, by an average of 5 points in ABC/Post polls since 1982.

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