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Dems under water on top two voter issues heading into midterms

With inflation and violent crime worrying Americans, polling indicates Americans trust Republicans on crime and the economy — and the GOP is taking advantage.

Published: October 6, 2022 7:15pm

Updated: October 7, 2022 11:11pm

One month out from the midterm elections, voters have made clear that crime and the economy are the two most important issues to them, according to recent polling — and they trust Republicans more than Democrats to handle both top issues.

The economy, particularly inflation, has consistently ranked as the number one priority for voters. A new Monmouth University poll, for example, found that 82% of Americans ranked inflation as an extremely or very important issue.

The latest NPR/Marist poll likewise showed inflation continued to rank as the top issue voters say they'll be thinking about while casting their ballots.

It's easy to see why. Overall inflation for consumers reached its highest levels in four decades earlier this year and continues to make the two most basic and essential costs of living — food and shelter — exceedingly high for working people.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released data showing food costs spiked 11.4% over the past year, and shelter costs, which include rents and various other housing-related expenses, jumped 6.2%. Mortgage rates have also skyrocketed over the same period.

With wages failing to keep pace with rising prices, the Labor Department said real average weekly earnings decreased 3.4% over the last 12 months. Various estimates show households on average will lose the equivalent of thousands of dollars this year due to inflation rising faster than wages.

Crime, meanwhile, is another top issue for voters. In fact, it ranked second in the new Monmouth poll, with 72% of Americans say it's an extremely or very important issue.

The latest Rasmussen Reports survey found that 83% of voters believe crime is a top issue and that 62% believe crime is getting worse.

Other recent polling has showed similar results amid a surge in violent crime.

Violent crime in urban areas rose 29% from 2020 to 2021, according to the Justice Department's recently released 2021 National Crime Victimization Survey, the nation's largest crime survey.

The survey doesn't include murder, although the FBI said this week that murders in the U.S. rose in 2021.

Preliminary data for this year has shown a surge in violent crime in cities across the U.S.

Polling has shown for months that voters trust Republicans more than Democrats on handling both crime and the economy by a substantial margin — in some cases by about 20 points.

To make matters worse for Democrats, polling has also found a majority of Americans disapprove of President Biden's handling of both key issues, even as his approval rating has ticked up recently.

The Gallup poll has long asked voters, "Which political party do you think can do a better job handling the problem you think is most important — the Republican Party or the Democratic Party?" This year, respondents picked Republicans over Democrats by 48%-37%.

The 11-point margin in favor of the GOP on this telling question is significantly larger than any the party has enjoyed in the last 20 years — including in the "red wave" midterm elections of 2010 (when the GOP picked up 63 House seats and 6 Senate seats) and 2014 (when the party gained 13 seats in the House and 9 in the Senate).

To put it in perspective, the last time the Republicans had a larger lead on this question heading into midterm elections was in 1946, when the party led by 17 points — and gained 55 House seats.

According to experts who spoke to Just the News, soaring inflation was caused by Biden's economic policies — namely too much spending — combined with the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates near zero while continuing to print money. Experts have also argued Democrats' recently passed spending package, the Inflation Reduction Act, will either have no impact on inflation or make inflation worse.

Meanwhile, Democrats nationwide have been scrambling to embrace law and order after previously embracing the "defund the police" movement, doing a virtual 180 on the issue of crime. This belated shift comes as progressive prosecutors face public backlash for rising crime rates on their watches as their permissive crime policies, such as prosecuting fewer nonviolent crimes and eliminating cash bail, backfire in liberal hubs such as San Francisco and Philadelphia.

The GOP is taking advantage of the situation, primarily campaigning on crime and the economy rather than so-called culture war issues.

Last month, the Republican National Committee issued a memo pushing candidates to focus on these topics. Soon thereafter, House Republican leaders unveiled their "Commitment to America," a policy platform broadly outlining the GOP's goals should they reclaim control of the chamber after the midterm elections.

At the center of the platform is a promise to combat inflation with economic growth and an anti-crime agenda that includes a "crackdown on prosecutors and district attorneys who refuse to prosecute crimes."

Republican candidates have been featuring high grocery prices in their political ads. They've been especially hounding Democrats with relentless attack ads for pushing policies that, they argue, contribute to rather than combat spikes in crime.

None other than former President Donald Trump has endorsed this campaigning strategy. In an exclusive interview with the "Just the News, No Noise" television show, Trump implored Republicans to focus relentlessly in the final weeks of the midterm elections on combating the crime scourge.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has similarly pushed Republican candidates to prioritize crime and inflation as a winning agenda.

The issue of crime has particularly come to the forefront this week, with New Mexico's Democrat governor pleading with the federal government for more law enforcement and a high-profile kidnapping of a California family ending in tragedy as all four members were found dead.

In response to GOP momentum on crime and the economy, Democrats have tried to pivot and focus instead on abortion, an issue on which polling indicates they enjoy greater support.

Following the Supreme Court's decision this summer to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established a constitutional right to an abortion, red states have attempted to place greater restrictions on a woman's freedom to undergo the procedure.

The new Monmouth University poll out this week found 56% of voters consider abortion a top concern — a strong majority but far less than the number that named crime and inflation a major worry.

The GOP's strategy seems to be working, with Republicans gaining ground in some key Senate races amid their onslaught of ads on crime.

One race where this trend has been evident is in Wisconsin, where the Democrats' nominee for the Senate, Mandela Barnes, has tried to stay away from crime and focus on abortion, while his Republican opponent, incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson, has done the opposite.

Johnson's polling position has improved, with his crime-focused attacks taking their toll on Barnes.

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