Abortion is now viewed as important as the economy for U.S. voters looking to decide who to vote for this Fall. But which party they want to lead is still a statistical dead heat.
Those are the latest findings of a Monmouth University poll conducted over four days in early May. Besides the economy and a woman’s right to choose, issues that are weighing on the minds of U.S. residents include problems associated with inflation over the last six months—specifically the increase in paying household expenses.
In a generic ballot for November, Republicans at 36% retain a two percentage point lead over Democrats in answering the question of who respondents want to control Congress. Pushing for “leaners” among those who initially say party control does not matter, adding 12% to the GOP column and 10% for the Democrats. The combined 48% Republican and 44% Democrat split represents statistically insignificant shifts when Dems held the advantage by one percentage point in March and the seven point preference for Republicans in January.
“Congressional party preference hasn’t moved a lot this year, but the issue picture may be coming into focus with the economy and abortion as the top considerations right now,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, in a statement with the release of the poll. “The importance of abortion coincides with the Supreme Court leak, which means it is hard to tell whether we are seeing a temporary blip or something that will have a major impact in November.”
Fifty nine percent of Americans responded it is very important to have their preferred party in control of Congress. This Congressional control importance metric is slightly higher among those who want Democrats (67%) rather than Republicans (61%) leading Congress. In March, those who wanted Republican control (64%) were slightly more likely than Democrat supporters (59%) to say that party control of Congress was very important to them.
Six Areas of Concern
The poll asked Americans to rate how six different policy areas factor into their congressional vote choice. On each of these six issues, at least two in three say it is very or extremely important to them that their chosen candidate shares their views.
The issues rated as extremely important included abortion (35%), immigration (33%), economic policy (31%), healthcare (30%) and tax policy (24%).
Gun control was cited by 32% but was asked before the mass shooting in Buffalo by a male espousing White supremacist ideology known as replacement theory, methodically shooting and killing 10 people and injuring three more, almost all of them Black.
A Look Back to 2018
Monmouth pollsters noted compared to a pre-election poll taken in August 2018, immigration, gun control and tax policy are nominally less important than they were in the last midterm. Abortion is a few points higher in extreme importance than 2018, while healthcare is significantly less important. Economic policy has seen no change.
The rise in importance of abortion policy in four years ago has shifted the most among Democrats. Nearly half (48%) of Democrats say a candidate’s alignment with their views on abortion is extremely important to their vote, up from 31% in 2018. Abortion’s importance is slightly higher among Independents than it was four years ago (31%, compared with 27% in 2018).
Among Republicans, there has actually been a decline in seeing abortion policy as an extremely important factor in their vote choice (29%, down from 36% in 2018). Of note, the importance of abortion in the Congressional vote has gone up by six points among women (43% extremely important now) and by three points among men (27% now) since 2018.
Thirty two percent of Democrats and 26% of Independents say agreeing with a candidate on abortion policy is the top consideration in their Congressional vote. Four years ago, fewer than 1 in 10 in either group said the same. On the other hand, the number of Republicans who name abortion as their most important issue (17%) is about the same as in 2018. Among women, abortion as the most important midterm issue has increased to 30% from 10%, while among men it has increased to 19% from 9%.
“Many Democrats are clearly focused on abortion as a driving factor in the midterm elections. However, what is not clear from this one poll is whether this issue is actually motivating voters who would not otherwise come out to vote this year,” said Murray.
The similar shifts in the importance of these policies for the entire population masks some larger partisan movements. The drop in immigration policy importance since the last midterm is driven mainly by Democrats (37% in 2018, 23% now), while the drop in healthcare policy importance is driven mainly by Republicans (37% in 2018 versus 18% now).
When asked to choose the single most important issue from the six policy areas included in the poll, economic policy (26%) and abortion (25%) are the top concerns, followed by healthcare (16%) and immigration (14%). Fewer than 1 in 10 select either gun control (9%) or tax policy (8%) as their most important issue.
Four years ago, healthcare was the top issue (28%), followed by economic policy (19%) and immigration (18%). Abortion policy (9%) was near the bottom of the list.
But the effects of inflation and the price costs that go along with them are shown in the poll. Among typical household expenses most Americans pay, 58% say it is currently difficult for them to afford gas for their cars. 52% say it is difficult for them to pay grocery bills and 51% worry about paying their tax bills, healthcare deductibles and out of pocket expenses.
Other household costs that are a struggle to pay include health insurance premiums (48%) and making their mortgage or rent payment (37%) is difficult.
Kitchen Table Bills
A Monmouth poll from 2017—the year before Democrats took control of the House of Representatives—found somewhat more people saying these expenses were easy to meet and fewer saying they were difficult, with the ease of buying groceries being the starkest change (62% easy in 2017 versus 47% easy in 2022).
The number of people who have experienced difficulty paying their grocery bill since December 2021 has increased by 10 points, health insurance premium difficulty has increased by 8 points, and tax payment difficulty is up 7 points. Out-of-pocket health expense difficulties are up by 3 points and there has been no appreciable change in the difficulty of paying housing costs.
Murray noted where household expenses where difficulty has increased, the shifts have been larger among Independents than among either Republicans or Democrats.
“The fact that more Independents are feeling the pain is a warning sign for the party in power,” said Murray.
A woman’s right to choose is a woman’s, not the government’s or even a church’s or temple’s or mosque’s unless the woman subscribes to their form of religion. A man’s right to choose is the same. Last I looked in America, both genders were equal in the eyes of the law and of the higher power I acknowledge.