5 Topics Influencing Public Mood Ahead of Midterm Elections

We are nearly six months from the 2022 Midterm Elections. Nearly a year and a half into Joe Biden’s Presidency and Democrat control of both the Executive & Legislative branches. Whether it be Covid-19, the Afghan Withdrawal, immigration, the economy, and now, the war in Ukraine, a number of crises have tested the American people’s support for the current administration, and this election will serve as a referendum on the Democrats’ performance leading the government.

To gauge the most pressing issues facing the public, we referenced a recent broadcast of The New York Times’ On Politics, hosted by Blake Hounshell and Leah Askarinam. Below are five topics they are keeping an eye on ahead of November.

Inflation

Inflation can be caused by a variety of factors, like the money supply or supply chains. Over the last two years, the American economy has been hit with a double whammy of massive monetary liquidity and the breakdown of supply chains from Covid, and more recently, the war in Ukraine.

As On Politics noted, “The Consumer Price Index had risen 6.8 percent last year through November — the fastest in four decades. Most troubling for the White House: Gasoline and groceries have led the way. Research shows that public approval ratings of presidents track closely with gas prices.” The most recent Consumer Price Index  report shows inflation has gone even higher this year through March, reaching 8.5%. This is the highest 12 month increase since 1981.

Inflation is often called a hidden tax on the consumer, and as the year goes on, inflation has continued to spiral out of control, reaching multi-decade highs. Without a doubt inflation is something that affects all Americans, but especially low to middle income Americans. Unless something changes in the next few months, how the Biden Administration confronts inflation will be a decisive factor in the midterm elections.

Covid-19

President Biden famously ran on the promise to “defeat the virus.” But more than a year into his presidency, Covid-19 is still with us:

“But two years on, the coronavirus is still with us. More than 1,000 Americans on average are dying of Covid-19 each day. Public health officials keep issuing confusing messages. The new Omicron variant is exposing flaws in the U.S. testing regime. Life is not back to normal.

The murky results make us wonder whether Biden can reap a political windfall if and when conditions improve.”

However, as various recent  polls have suggested, Independent voters, a key cohort for deciding which party wins in November, are ready to move on from Covid-19 and join the majority of Republican voters who say it’s time to accept that Covid-19 is here to stay. Hammering dire Covid-19 messaging will likely be a losing strategy, and those who campaign on a new way forward will resonate more with voters.

Redistricting

After each census, states have the opportunity to “redistrict.” This process can join or separate districts and can dramatically change the electoral landscape of a given state. This is especially impactful in battleground states.

From the On Politics episode:

About 30 states have finalized new congressional maps based on 2020 census data. For some incumbents, new maps mean facing primaries against other sitting members of Congress. For others, new maps might offer a convenient excuse to retire rather than taking on a colleague in a primary or testing their political strength in newly competitive seats.

Further:

Even if things could have gone worse for Democrats in the redistricting process, they’re still at a disadvantage in the race for the House. Democrats oversee redistricting in about half as many House districts as Republicans, and history is working against the president’s party, which has lost House seats in all but two midterm elections since the 1940s.

Democrats can challenge the new “maps” in court, but if they are not successful, the playing field has shrunk, and current redistricting efforts will likely fall in favor of the Republican Party.

The Democrat Agenda in Congress

The Democratic Party had ambitious plans after the 2020 Presidential Election was decided and their party came out on top. But things have not gone smoothly for the President’s party which has suffered high-profile legislative defeats.

Most notoriously for the Democrats, their signature spending package, “Build Back Better,” was thwarted by a Senator from their own party, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who said he could not get behind the nearly $2 trillion dollar package.

On Politics notes the importance of Democrats passing their agenda, piece by piece if necessary, to maintain an edge with voters. And one pollster, Brian Stryker, believes failure to move the ball any further will be seen as an inability to lead.

“If B.B.B. actually collapsed, it’d be very bad for elected Democrats. It would also further the narrative that Democrats would rather fight each other than govern.”

The “Health” of American Politics

It is no secret that American politics are dangerously polarized in recent years. For the hosts of On Politics, the January 6th riot at the Capitol was a watershed moment in American division.

“The congressional panel investigating the events of Jan. 6 has released memos and texts suggesting a plot that was both more serious and more absurd than we knew at the time.”

Yes, January 6th was a dark moment which should not have happened. But on balance, it was perhaps the capstone to a year marked by political violence and riots across multiple major cities which went on for much of 2020.

The greater issue with January 6 is that it marks a turning point in a large part of the electorate’s faith in our elections, and it is naïve to think that these questions may not come up again in the midterm. Americans need candidates and government which seek to unify the country and a failure to do so in the months leading to the midterms could have significant repercussions for the outcome of those elections.

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