AP VoteCast: Inflation and Democracy Drive Demoralized Voters

By JOSH BOAK and HANNAH FINGERHUT
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Voters have become deeply discouraged about the state of America and its future, AP VoteCast shows, with high inflation and worries about the fragility of democracy heavily influencing their decisions in the midterm elections. Tuesday term.

Both major factors reflect a country in distress at a time when control of Congress — and a choice between starkly contrasting visions of America — are at stake.

The detailed portrait of the US electorate is based on preliminary results from VoteCast, a large survey of more than 90,000 voters nationwide conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

Half of voters say inflation was a major contributor to their vote, as groceries, gas, housing, food and other costs have skyrocketed over the past year and given Republicans a way to criticize President Joe Biden. The economy was a top concern for voters, about 8 in 10 of whom said it was in bad shape, as high inflation raised fears of a recession. Not all voters say Biden’s policies drove up prices, though many saw it as a defining issue for the election.

Slightly fewer voters – 44% – say the future of democracy was their top concern. During the campaign trail, Biden warned that Republicans were a threat to democracy. Many GOP leaders continue to cast doubt on the US electoral system, falsely claiming that the 2020 presidential election, which Donald Trump lost, was rigged.

Since the 2018 election, voters have become increasingly demoralized as the country’s political divisions harden. About three-quarters say the country is heading in the wrong direction. That figure is higher than it was in VoteCast voter surveys in 2018 and 2020.

Republicans are counting on voter dissatisfaction with inflation, crime and immigration to help them gain control of both houses of Congress.

With deep doubts about the health of the economy due to inflation nearing 40-year highs, they sought to frame the election as a referendum on Biden, saying high prices stemmed from his pandemic aid of 1 .9 trillion dollars and its resistance to providing more leases for oil drilling on federal lands.

Biden and his fellow Democrats have argued that America’s middle class is poised for a renaissance because of its investments in infrastructure, computer chip production and clean energy projects. The president said the 8.2% annual inflation is a consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, which caused food and energy prices to spike. Administration officials have gone to great lengths to lower prices at the pump, but when thinking about inflation, nearly half of voters said rising food prices were what mattered most when voting.

Inflation has clearly taken a toll on the well-being of many Americans. A third of voters describe their families as financially behind. That’s almost double the percentage of the electorate who said the same thing two years ago. A similar percentage say they are unsure of being able to meet their expenses.

As inflation has shaped Republican messaging heading into the midterm elections, voters are split on whether to blame Biden. About half say his policies have driven up prices, while almost as many say inflation is due to forces beyond the president’s control.

One of the main forces driving up prices has been the war in Ukraine, after Russia’s February invasion sparked a global wave of inflation as food and energy prices soared. Most voters say US military and financial support for Ukraine is about right (about 4 in 10) or should be more active (about 3 in 10). Only about 3 out of 10 want to provide less to Ukraine.

Democrats also tried to tap into their base’s outrage after the Supreme Court struck down abortion protections in Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision enshrining the right to abortion. Overall, 7 in 10 voters say the ruling was a big factor in their midterm decisions.

VoteCast also shows that the reversal was largely unpopular. About 6 in 10 say they are angry or dissatisfied, while about 4 in 10 are satisfied. And about 6 in 10 say they support a law guaranteeing access to legal abortion across the country.

Crime was also a big factor for most voters, and half say the Biden administration has made the United States less crime-proof.

Despite concerns about democracy, about 4 in 10 voters say they are “very” confident that votes in the midterm elections will be accurately counted, an improvement from the percentage of the 2020 electorate who said so.

Many voters entered the elections with strong opinions. About half say they knew from the start how they would vote, while a third decided during the campaign, and about 1 in 10 say they made their choice in the past few days.

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AP VoteCast is a survey of the American electorate conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for Fox News and the Associated Press. The survey of 90,490 voters was conducted over nine days and ended when the polls closed. The interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. The survey combines a random sample of registered voters drawn from state voter rolls; self-identified registered voters using NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population; and self-identified registered voters selected from non-probability online panels. The margin of sampling error for voters is estimated at plus or minus 0.5 percentage points. Find more details on the AP VoteCast methodology at https://ap.org/votecast.