In the final stretch of the 2022 midterm elections, Republican and Democratic candidates are making their final arguments on the issues that matter most to American voters.
Republicans have gained a slight edge over Democrats in recent weeks in generic congressional vote polling — a closely watched indicator for midterm performance — but a number of tight battleground races will determine control of Congress.
1. Growing inflation
Inflation is top concern of voters in the 2022 midterms, consistently ranking highest on voters’ list of priorities throughout the election cycle. Unlike most political issues, inflation affects every single voter making it an especially potent force in this year’s midterms.
Since hitting a 40-year high in June, inflation has remained stubbornly high with prices climbing 8.2% annually in September, according to the latest report from the Labor Department.
Despite efforts from the White House to address rising prices, President Joe Biden continues to poll poorly on his handling of the economy, in turn hurting voters’ perception of Democrats on economic issues. Republicans have continued to poll better on inflation, with a majority of voters trusting the GOP over Democrats to best handle the economy.
2. Crime and a spike in crime rates
Major cities across the U.S. in Red and Blue states have seen a surge in violent crime since the pandemic, with homicides hitting historic highs in 2020 and 2021.
According to figures from the Council on Criminal Justice, homicides in 2022 are still 39% higher than during the same period in 2019, with property crimes, violent crimes, and drug offenses also seeing increases this year.
As the party traditionally tied to law and order, Republicans have made crime a key part of their midterms messaging, frequently calling out Democrat opponents who previously supported defunding the police in the aftermath of Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
Crime has continued to poll higher on voters’ concerns in the final weeks of the midterms, often coming in second to inflation, with a majority of voters trusting Republicans over Democrats on crime by a 15 point margin, according to a Fox News Poll.
3. Abortion and abortion rights
The Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn Roe v. Wade brought abortion to the forefront of national debate this summer. Until that decision, midterms messaging was focused almost entirely on the economy and crime, but the Supreme Court leak and subsequent ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization thrust the social issue into the midterms conversation and gave new momentum to Democrats.
Many Democrat candidates refocused their midterms messaging to abortion following the SCOTUS decision. In fact, Planned Parenthood announced a record-breaking midterm spending plan of $50 million in key races, Fox News Digital reported.
Democrats saw a bump in generic congressional polling and the midterms appeared more competitive for the first time all cycle.
Despite heightened interest in abortion, especially among Democrat voters, some political commentators question the potency of the issue come election day, worrying that Democrat candidates might be leaning too heavily on the issue at a time when inflation and crime continue to top concerns of key voter blocs.
4. Immigration and border security
The United States experienced the highest recorded number of illegal border crossings in American history this year, with over 2 million encounters recorded this fiscal year alone.
The issue has remained a central theme throughout the midterms, consistently polling high on the list of voter concerns according to national polls.
Over the past year, governors of border states have sounded the alarm over the growing border crisis and its detrimental effects to their states’ citizens and resources. The issue gained national attention in the midterms when Republican Governors Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., and Greg Abbot, R-Texas, sent busses of illegal migrants to New York, Washington D.C, and Martha’s Vineyard.
Immigration and border security are another issue set where Republicans have held an advantage among likely voters.
5. Threats to Democracy
Threats to democracy has been an issue of top importance to Democrats in the midterms, topping out inflation and abortion in several national polls.
President Joe Biden has called attention to the issue in recent campaign speeches, denouncing “extreme MAGA Republicans” and the threat they pose to democracy. This point was central to Biden’s “Battle for the Soul of the Nation” speech in Pennsylvania where he accused MAGA Republicans of waging an “assault on American democracy.”
In Congress, Democrats have attempted to keep this issue front-and-center ahead of the midterms. The House Select Committee’s investigation into the January 6th Capitol riot has held numerous public hearings attempting to prove former President Donald Trump undermined democracy in the aftermath of January 6th.
On the trail, some Democrat candidates have pointed to their Republican opponents’ refusal to accept the 2020 election results as a key sticking point in their campaign messaging.