Before the Midterms

Heading into the midterms, Americans are universally concerned about bread and butter issues like the economy and rising crime. Yet, Democrats and Republicans are divided on other big issues, like climate change, the rollback of women’s rights and the rise in illegal immigration.

At the same time, Republican or Democrat, most Americans are concerned about the very future of our Democracy, with each side blaming the other. The fear of the other side is real and palpable. The majority of Americans “on both sides” are worried about the threat of political violence, and even the potential for a civil war.

In this political climate, it appears that issues matter less than party, with most likely voters saying they plan to vote a straight ticket next month.

Americans have a lot on their minds

The national mood is heavy heading into the midterms. In our latest survey with a representative sample of over 1,000 American adults, seven in ten say that the country is on the wrong track (70%), and less than half (47%) are optimistic that things will get better in the near future.

Americans have a lot on their minds. Their concerns run the gamut and include worries about the economy, crime and gun violence, the rollback of abortion rights, climate change, illegal immigration, the war in Ukraine, police brutality, the threat of domestic and international terrorism, deepening political divisions and the very future of our Democracy.

Collectively Americans are most concerned about bread and butter issues like the economy and crime.Of 28 concerns asked about, the top ten all pertain to economic issues and crime or violence. Interestingly, Democrats and Republicans agree on many of these issues.

  • 92% of Americans are very or somewhat concerned about inflation
  • 87% are concerned about the rise in gun violence and mass shootings
  • 86% are worried about a major financial recession or depression

Divided by Fear

Not surprisingly, concerns about the economy and crime generally transcend parties, but issues like climate change, abortion rights, illegal immigration, and the right to bear arms are much more polarizing.

  • Democrats are much more concerned than Republicans about climate change, the rise of white supremacy groups, and the rollback of women’s rights, abortion rights, and LGBTQ rights.
  • Conversely, Republicans are more concerned than Democrats about the rise in illegal immigration and losing the right to bear arms.

American Democracy is under threat

Despite political differences, most Americans agree that we are too polarized and American Democracy is under threat. Blue or red, roughly three in four Americans decry the rise in political polarization and worry that we may lose our Democracy. And, over six in ten Democrats and Republicans are concerned about a party or candidate stealing an election.

But, Democrats and Republicans disagree on the source of the threat to our Democracy, with each blaming the other.

“[I am worried] about the ongoing attacks on Democracy and elections by Trump and his supporters – lying and suppression voting.” – Democrat

“[I’m concerned about] the threat that Donald J. Trump and the US Republican Party pose to the national security of the United States and the ability to hold a free and fair election without interference from the Republican party.” – Democrat

“Corrupt Biden, Democrats, mainstream media turning America into a Nazi state, a socialist, fascist, communist country.” – Republican

“I would say divisiveness, cheating in elections, and the push for Socialism are huge problems.” – Republican

The fears are palpable. The majority of Democrats and Republicans say that they are concerned about the threat of political violence and the potential for a civil war.

This is the nation’s mood heading into the midterm elections. While “everyday” economic and crime issues dominate our concerns, Republicans and Democrats alike fear for the future of our country, with each pointing the finger at the other.

In this context, it makes sense that most likely midterm voters – on both sides – plan to vote a straight ticket. Over eight in ten Democrats and seven in ten Republicans who say they are likely to vote in the midterms plan to vote a straight ticket.

While Americans will head to the voting booth with a lot on their minds, when it comes to casting their ballots, most are just betting on their party across the board. Red or blue, they believe the threats are too real and the stakes too high to split the ticket or vote on single issues.

About the Survey

Unless otherwise noted, data in this report come from our recent “Willow Poll,” which explored confidence in institutions, the national mood, and other social and political issues. The study, conducted in August and September 2022, is based on online interviews with a nationally representative sample of over 1,000 Americans age 18 and over. Demographic quotas were established based on U.S. Census Bureau data.

Interviewing was conducted online by Prodege, an innovative global survey sample provider.

This is the second of many blog posts from Willow Poll that will be published in the coming months. Sign up for our blog to receive future posts.

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