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Abortion, Economy Top Midterm Issues

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Difficulty paying for groceries, other bills inches up

West Long Branch, NJ – The American public is divided as to which party they want in control of Congress, and the issue picture has shifted since the last midterm – with the economy and abortion replacing health care as the top electoral concern. The Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll also finds that a majority of Americans report having a difficult time paying for gas. Reports of problems paying household expenses overall have increased in the past six months at the same time President Joe Biden’s job rating heads further underwater.

The public remains divided on whether they prefer to have the Republicans (36%) or the Democrats (34%) in control of Congress. Pushing for “leaners” among those who initially say party control does not matter adds 12% to the GOP column and 10% for the Democrats. The combined 48% Republican and 44% Democrat split represents statistically insignificant shifts since March (45% Republican and 46% Democrat) and January (50% Republican and 43% Democrat). About 6 in 10 (59%) Americans say it is very important to have their preferred party in control of Congress. This congressional control importance metric is slightly higher among those who want Democrats (67%) rather than Republicans (61%) leading Congress. In March, those who wanted Republican control (64%) were slightly more likely than Democrat supporters (59%) to say that party control of Congress was very important to them. Overall, just 15% of the public approves of the job Congress is doing now, down from 21% in March. A total of 77% disapprove now.

“Congressional party preference hasn’t moved a lot this year, but the issue picture may be coming into focus with the economy and abortion as the top considerations right now. The importance of abortion coincides with the Supreme Court leak, which means it is hard to tell whether we are seeing a temporary blip or something that will have a major impact in November,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The poll asked Americans to rate how six different policy areas factor into their congressional vote choice. On each of these six issues, at least 2 in 3 say it is very or extremely important to them that their chosen candidate shares their views. Looking at just those who rate these policies as extremely important finds a fairly even distribution among abortion (35%), immigration (33%), gun control (32%), economic policy (31%), and health care (30%). Tax policy (24%) is seen as extremely important by slightly fewer people than the other five areas. Compared to a Monmouth pre-election poll taken in August 2018, immigration, gun control and tax policy are nominally less important than they were in the last midterm. Abortion is a few points higher in extreme importance than 2018, while health care is significantly less important. Economic policy has seen no change.

The similar shifts in the importance of these policies for the entire population masks some larger partisan movements. For example, the drop in immigration policy’s importance since the last midterm is driven mainly by Democrats (23% extremely important, down from 37% in 2018) while the drop in health care policy’s importance is driven mainly by Republicans (18%, down from 37%). The importance of economic policy declined a few points among Republicans and Democrats but actually increased slightly among independents.

The importance of abortion policy in the current midterms compared with four years ago has shifted the most among Democrats. Nearly half (48%) of Democrats say a candidate’s alignment with their views on abortion is extremely important to their vote, which is up from 31% who said the same in 2018. Abortion’s importance is slightly higher among independents than it was four years ago (31%, compared with 27% in 2018). Among Republicans, however, there has actually been a decline in seeing abortion policy as an extremely important factor in their vote choice (29%, down from 36% in 2018). Of note, the importance of abortion in the congressional vote has gone up by six points among women (43% extremely important now) and by three points among men (27% now) since 2018.

When asked to choose the single most important issue from the six policy areas included in the poll, economic policy (26%) and abortion (25%) are the top concerns, followed by health care (16%) and immigration (14%). Fewer than 1 in 10 select either gun control (9%) or tax policy (8%) as their most important issue. Four years ago, health care was the top issue (28%), followed by economic policy (19%) and immigration (18%). Abortion policy (9%) was near the bottom of the list.

About 1 in 3 Democrats (32%) and 1 in 4 independents (26%) say agreeing with a candidate on abortion policy is the top consideration in their congressional vote. Four years ago, fewer than 1 in 10 in either group said the same. On the other hand, the number of Republicans who name abortion as their most important issue (17%) is about the same as in 2018. Among women, abortion as the most important midterm issue has increased from 10% to 30%, while among men it has increased from 9% to 19%.

“Many Democrats are clearly focused on abortion as a driving factor in the midterm elections. However, what is not clear from this one poll is whether this issue is actually motivating voters who would not otherwise come out to vote this year,” said Murray.

Turning to presidential politics, Biden currently receives a job rating of 38% approve and 57% disapprove. He held a 39% to 54% rating in Monmouth polls taken in January and March this year. Just 18% of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction, down from 24% two months ago.

Among typical household expenses most Americans pay, a majority (58%) say it is currently difficult for them to afford gas for their cars. Just over half also say it is difficult for them to pay grocery bills (52%), their tax bills (51%), and health care deductibles and out of pocket expenses (51%). Just under half say the same about health insurance premiums (48%) and fewer than 4 in 10 say making their mortgage or rent payment (37%) is difficult. A Monmouth poll from 2017 – the year before Democrats took control of the House of Representatives – found somewhat more people saying these expenses were easy to meet and fewer saying they were difficult, with the ease of buying groceries being the starkest change (62% easy in 2017 versus 47% easy in 2022).

Compared to this past December, the number of people who have experienced difficulty paying their grocery bill has increased by 10 points, health insurance premium difficulty has increased by 8 points, and tax payment difficulty is up 7 points. Out of pocket health expense difficulties are up slightly by 3 points and there has been no appreciable change in the difficulty of paying housing costs. [The gas price item was not asked in prior polls]. Of note, for the household expenses where difficulty has increased, the shifts have been larger among independents than among either Republicans or Democrats.

“The fact that more independents are feeling the pain is a warning sign for the party in power,” said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from May 5 to 9, 2022 with 807 adults in the United States.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

1.Do you approve or disapprove of the job Joe Biden is doing as president?

  TREND:May
2022
March
2022
Jan.
2022
Dec.
2021
Nov.
2021
Sept.
2021
July
2021
June
2021
April
2021
March
2021
Jan.
2021
Approve38%39%39%40%42%46%48%48%54%51%54%
Disapprove57%54%54%50%50%46%44%43%41%42%30%
(VOL) No opinion5%7%7%11%9%8%8%9%5%8%16%
 (n)(807)(809)(794)(808)(811)(802)(804)(810)(800)(802)(809)

2.Do you approve or disapprove of the job the U.S. Congress is doing?

  TREND:May
2022
March
2022
Jan.
2022
Dec.
2021
Nov.
2021
Sept.
2021
July
2021
June
2021
April
2021
March
2021
Jan.
2021
Approve15%21%19%23%18%22%23%21%35%30%35%
Disapprove77%71%74%66%70%65%62%65%56%59%51%
(VOL) No opinion8%8%6%11%12%13%15%15%9%11%14%
 (n)(807)(809)(794)(808)(811)(802)(804)(810)(800)(802)(809)
  TREND:
Continued

Nov.
2020
Early June
2020

May
2020

April
2020

Feb.
2020

Jan.
2020

Dec.
2019

Nov.
2019

Sept.
2019

Aug.
2019

June
2019

May
2019

April
2019

March
2019

Jan.
2019
Approve23%22%32%32%20%24%22%23%21%17%19%20%24%23%18%
Disapprove64%69%55%55%69%62%65%64%68%71%69%71%62%68%72%
(VOL) No opinion13%9%13%13%11%14%13%13%11%13%12%9%14%9%10%
 (n)(810)(807)(808)(857)(902)(903)(903)(908)(1,161)(800)(751)(802)(801)(802)(805)
  TREND:
Continued
Nov.
2018
Aug.
2018
June
2018
April
2018
March
2018
Jan.
2018
Dec.
2017
Sept.
2017
Aug.
2017
July
2017
May
2017
March
2017
Jan.
2017
Approve23%17%19%17%18%21%16%17%18%19%19%25%23%
Disapprove63%69%67%71%72%68%65%69%69%70%68%59%66%
(VOL) No opinion14%14%14%12%11%11%19%15%13%11%13%16%11%
 (n)(802)(805)(806)(803)(803)(806)(806)(1,009)(805)(800)(1,002)(801)(801)
  TREND:
Continued
Sept.
2016*
Aug.
2016*
June
2016*
March
2016
Jan.
2016
Dec.
2015
Oct.
2015
Sept.
2015
Aug.
2015
July
2015
June
2015
April
2015
Jan.
2015
Dec.
2014
July
2013
Approve15%14%17%22%17%16%17%19%18%18%19%21%18%17%14%
Disapprove77%78%76%68%73%73%71%71%72%69%71%67%70%73%76%
(VOL) No opinion8%9%7%10%10%10%12%11%11%12%10%12%11%11%10%
 (n)(802)(803)(803)(1,008)(1,003)(1,006)(1,012)(1,009)(1,203)(1,001)(1,002)(1,005)(1,003)(1,008)(1,012)

        * Registered voters

3.Would you rather see the Republicans or the Democrats in control of Congress, or doesn’t this matter to you? [CHOICES WERE ROTATED] [If DOES NOT MATTER: If you had to lean one way or the other would you pick the Republicans or the Democrats?]

  TREND:May
2022
March
2022
Jan.
2022
Republicans 36%33%35%
Not matter, but lean Rep12%12%15%
Democrats 34%33%33%
Not matter, but lean Dem10%13%10%
Does not matter, no lean7%9%7%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%0%
 (n)(807)(809)(794)

4.Is it very important, somewhat important, or only a little important to have [Republicans/Democrats] in control of Congress? [CHOICE READ FROM Q3]

  TREND:May
2022
March
2022
Jan.
2022
Very important59%56%54%
Somewhat important20%21%23%
Only a little important 12%12%15%
(VOL) Don’t know / Does not matter who controls Congress (from Q3)9%11%8%
 (n)(807)(809)(794)

5.I’m going to read you a number of different policy issues.  For each one, please tell me how important it is that a candidate for Congress shares your views on that issue in order for you to vote for them. You may use extremely important, very important, just somewhat important, or not important. [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

Immigration policy

  TREND:May
2022
Aug.
2018
Extremely important33%35%
Very important37%39%
Just somewhat important26%21%
Not important4%4%
(VOL) Don’t know0%1%
 (n)(807)(805)

Health care policy

  TREND:May
2022
Aug.
2018
Extremely important30%43%
Very important42%37%
Just somewhat important22%15%
Not important6%4%
(VOL) Don’t know0%0%
 (n)(807)(805)

Gun control policy

  TREND:May
2022
Aug.
2018
Extremely important32%37%
Very important34%38%
Just somewhat important21%16%
Not important12%8%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%
 (n)(807)(805)

Abortion policy

  TREND:May
2022
Aug.
2018
Extremely important35%31%
Very important35%28%
Just somewhat important19%25%
Not important10%15%
(VOL) Don’t know1%2%
 (n)(807)(805)

Tax policy

  TREND:May
2022
Aug.
2018
Extremely important24%29%
Very important46%44%
Just somewhat important26%22%
Not important3%3%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%
 (n)(807)(805)

Economic policy

  TREND:May
2022
Aug.
2018
Extremely important31%31%
Very important48%48%
Just somewhat important19%17%
Not important1%4%
(VOL) Don’t know1%0%
 (n)(807)(805)

6.And which of the issues I just mentioned is most important to you in your vote choice for Congress?

  TREND:May
2022
Aug.
2018
Immigration policy14%18%
Health care policy16%28%
Gun control policy9%13%
Abortion policy25%9%
Tax policy8%7%
Economic policy26%19%
(VOL) Don’t know3%5%
 (n)(807)(805)

7.Would you say things in the country are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track?

  TREND:May
2022
March
2022
Jan.
2022
Dec.
2021
Nov.
2021
Sept.
2021
July
2021
June
2021
April
2021
March
2021
Jan.
2021
Right direction18%24%24%30%31%29%38%37%46%34%42%
Wrong track79%73%71%66%64%65%56%57%50%61%51%
(VOL) Depends2%1%3%1%2%4%3%3%2%4%3%
(VOL) Don’t know2%2%2%3%3%2%4%3%2%2%4%
(n)(807)(809)(794)(808)(811)(802)(804)(810)(800)(802)(809)
  TREND: ContinuedNov.
2020
Early Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late June
2020
Early June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
2020
Jan.
2020
Right direction26%27%22%18%21%33%30%39%37%37%
Wrong track68%66%72%74%74%60%61%54%57%56%
(VOL) Depends4%4%4%5%4%4%5%4%6%6%
(VOL) Don’t know2%3%2%3%1%3%5%3%1%1%
(n)(810)(867)(868)(867)(807)(808)(857)(851)(902)(903)
  TREND: ContinuedDec.
2019
Nov.
2019
Sept.
2019
Aug.
2019
June
2019
May
2019
April
2019
March
2019
Nov.
2018
Aug.
2018
June
2018
April
2018
March
2018
Jan.
2018
Right direction32%30%30%28%31%29%28%29%35%35%40%33%31%37%
Wrong track56%61%61%62%62%63%62%63%55%57%53%58%61%57%
(VOL) Depends8%7%6%8%6%4%7%6%7%6%3%5%6%3%
(VOL) Don’t know4%2%2%2%2%3%3%2%3%3%3%4%1%3%
(n)(903)(908)(1,161)(800)(751)(802)(801)(802)(802)(805)(806)(803)(803)(806)
  TREND: ContinuedDec.
2017
Aug.
2017
May
2017
March
2017
Jan.
2017
Aug.
2016*
Oct.
2015
July
2015
June
2015
April
2015
Dec.
2014
July
2013
Right direction24%32%31%35%29%30%24%28%23%27%23%28%
Wrong track66%58%61%56%65%65%66%63%68%66%69%63%
(VOL) Depends7%4%5%4%4%2%6%5%5%5%5%5%
(VOL) Don’t know3%5%3%5%2%3%4%3%3%2%3%4%
(n)(806)(805)(1,002)(801)(801)(803)(1,012)(1,001)(1,002)(1,005)(1,008)(1,012)

        * Registered voters

8.I’m going to read you some typical household expenses.  For each, please tell me if it is very easy, somewhat easy, somewhat difficult, or very difficult for you to pay for it?  If you do not have this expense, just let me know. [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

Mortgage or rent payment

  TREND:May
2022
Dec.
2021
May
2019
March
2017
Very easy15%16%21%17%
Somewhat easy27%24%25%28%
Somewhat difficult22%24%24%22%
Very difficult15%13%9%11%
Do not have this expense21%23%19%20%
(VOL) Don’t know0%1%1%2%
 (n)(807)(808)(802)(801)

Grocery bills

 TREND:May
2022
Dec.
2021
May
2019
March
2017
Very easy18%19%33%28%
Somewhat easy29%37%36%34%
Somewhat difficult31%30%21%26%
Very difficult21%12%9%7%
Do not have this expense1%2%1%4%
(VOL) Don’t know0%1%1%1%
 (n)(807)(808)(802)(801)

Health insurance premiums

 TREND:May
2022
Dec.
2021
May
2019
March
2017
Very easy18%22%21%19%
Somewhat easy21%24%26%23%
Somewhat difficult25%23%22%20%
Very difficult23%17%18%22%
Do not have this expense12%11%11%13%
(VOL) Don’t know1%2%3%2%
 (n)(807)(808)(802)(801)

Health care deductibles and out of pocket expenses

  TREND:May
2022
Dec.
2021
May
2019
March
2017
Very easy16%14%20%17%
Somewhat easy23%28%28%26%
Somewhat difficult24%27%25%25%
Very difficult27%21%20%21%
Do not have this expense10%9%6%9%
(VOL) Don’t know0%1%1%3%
 (n)(807)(808)(802)(801)

Paying taxes

 TREND:May
2022
Dec.
2021
May
2019
March
2017
Very easy15%18%22%20%
Somewhat easy27%27%29%28%
Somewhat difficult28%27%26%27%
Very difficult23%17%15%14%
Do not have this expense5%9%6%9%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%2%2%
 (n)(807)(808)(802)(801)

Gas for your car

 May
2022
Very easy13%
Somewhat easy21%
Somewhat difficult26%
Very difficult32%
Do not have this expense8%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
 (n)(807)

[Q9-22 previously released.]

[Q23-38 held for future release.]

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from May 5 to 9, 2022 with a probability-based national random sample of 807 adults age 18 and older. This includes 284 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 523 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. Telephone numbers were selected through a mix of random digit dialing and list-based sampling. Landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Interviewing services were provided by Braun Research, with sample obtained from Dynata (RDD, n=532), Aristotle (list, n=137) and a panel of prior Monmouth poll participants (n=138). Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information (ACS 2018 one-year survey). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.


DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
Self-Reported
30% Republican
43% Independent
27% Democrat
 
49% Male
51% Female
 
30% 18-34
32% 35-54
38% 55+
 
63% White
12% Black
17% Hispanic
  8% Asian/Other
 
69% No degree
31% 4 year degree

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs