Key facts about U.S. voter priorities ahead of the 2022 midterm elections

Voters cast ballots on the first day of early voting at the Desert Vista Community Center in Las Vegas on Oct. 22, 2022. (David Becker/Getty Images)

Voters in the United States have already started casting their ballots for the House of Representatives, Senate and many state and federal offices this year. As Election Day approaches, here are voters’ top priorities, based on a Pew Research Center poll conducted Oct. 10-16, 2022.

This Pew Research Center analysis examines the priorities of registered voters in the 2022 US election. It is based mainly on a survey conducted among 5,098 adults, including 3,993 registered voters, from Oct. 10-16, 2022. More information about the research questions and methods can be found at the links in the text.

Each participant in the survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online research panel that is recruited through a random, random mailing list. This way almost all US adults have a choice. The survey is expected to be representative of US adults by gender, race, ethnicity, political party, education and other groups. Read more about the ATP process.

The economy has always been a big issue for voters this year. In an October survey, nearly eight-in-ten registered voters (79%) say the economy is the most important factor in deciding who to vote for in the 2022 election, the largest share of any of the 18 factors that say so. survey asked about.

A chart showing that the economy is a major issue for voters in the midterm elections.

Americans’ sentiments about the nation’s economy have worsened in recent months. In the October survey, nearly eight in ten adults (82%) say the economy today is either poor (36%) or fair (46%). Only 17% say conditions are good (2%) or good (16%).

The future of democracy is also important to voting for the majority, with 70% of registered voters saying it is very important to their average vote. Six in ten or more say the same about education (64%), health care (63%), energy policy (61%) and violence (61%). And more than half of voters say the same about gun policies (57%) and abortion (56%).

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The coronavirus pandemic is close to the top of voters’ priorities, with 23% saying it is the most important factor in their vote, down from a third who said this in March.

Voter preferences differ widely by party, as they have in past elections. While large numbers of people in both parties say the economy is the most important factor in their vote, voters who support or lean for a Republican House candidate in their district are more likely to say this than those who support or lean for a Democratic candidate in their district ( 92) % vs. 65%).

Some issues lead to many side divisions. Nearly three-thirds of Republican voters say immigration (76%) and violence (74%) are most important to their vote. Democratic supporters are least likely to view each of these items as important (36% and 45%, respectively).

Issues that are most important to Democratic voters include the future of democracy in the US (80% say this is most important to their vote), health care (79%) and abortion (75%). Republican voters are less likely than Democratic voters to say the future of democracy is most important to their vote (70% say so), but they are less likely than Democratic voters to view health care (42%) or abortion (39%) as the most important. on their votes. Climate change also ranks high among Democrats, with nearly two-thirds (68%) saying it is very important to their vote. Only 9% of Republican voters say the same.

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A chart showing that among Democrats, abortion increased as a voting issue after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v.  Wade.

The issue of abortion After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. Between March and August, the percentage of registered voters who saw abortion as an important issue in the election rose by 13 percentage points, from 43% to 56%. This division held steady until the fall: As of October, 56% of registered voters say abortion is a top priority in their midterm voting.

The increase in concern is mainly driven by voters registered in the Democratic Party: 75% said abortion is very important in the latest survey, a slight change from August (71%) but from 46% in March. About four in ten registered Republicans (39%) said in October that abortion is the most important issue in their vote, compared to 41% who said this in August and 40% who said this in March.

In the weeks leading up to the midterms, almost as many voters in both groups said they were “very” or “extremely” interested in voting. In an October survey, eight in ten registered voters who support Republican candidates said they were strongly encouraged to do so, as did 79% of those who support Democrats.

Voter motivation varied by race and ethnicity during the election: 76% of white voters said they were willing or unwilling to vote, compared to 63% of blacks, 57% of Puerto Rican voters and 55% of Asian American voters. There were also age group differences: 84% of those aged 65 and over said they were keen to vote, compared to half (51%) of voters aged 18 to 29.

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A chart showing that GOP voters are more likely to think about the upcoming election than Democratic voters.

About two-thirds of registered voters say it is “really important” for the party to defeat Congress, in line with the share of voters who said this in the run-up to the 2018 election. Since spring, voters who support Republican candidates have been more modest than those who support Democrats in saying that which party wins the election is important. As of October, 76% of Republican voters and 72% of voters who support Democratic candidates say so. Republican voters are also more likely than Democratic voters to say they have thought a lot about the upcoming election (49% vs. 38%).

In general, voters give candidates low marks when describing their national plans. Only 23% of registered voters say the Republican candidate has best explained their plan or vision for the country, while 19% say the same about the Democratic candidate, as of the October poll.

A chart showing how few voters say that each party's representatives have done a good job of explaining their plans.

Even the majority of voters in the two groups say that opposition party did not do well in explaining their plans, less than half of voters who support Republicans (39%) say GOP candidates have done a good job in explaining their plans; Only 32% of Democratic voters say the same about Democratic candidates.

Ted Van Green is a research analyst focusing on US politics and policy at the Pew Research Center.

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