The 2022 midterms are over, but control of the Senate and the House still hang in the balance as key states continue counting ballots. Despite that uncertainty, there’s plenty to take away from Tuesday’s election results that saw Democrats with a strong showing and an expected “Red Wave” that only reached the shore in Florida.
Stephanie Perry is the executive director of the Fox Leadership Program and the Penn Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies (PORES). She’s also the manager for exit polls at NBC News, a team that had several Penn students working through the Election Night. Perry shares her team’s top five exit-poll analyses to help explain what happened.
Inflation and abortion were driving factors for midterm voters
For 31% of voters, inflation was the most important issue to their vote, with 27% citing abortion. Crime (11%), gun policy (11%), and immigration (10%) trailed behind as salient issues for voters.
Majorities of voters said they trust the Republican Party more than the Democratic Party to handle the issues of inflation (54% to 42%), crime (52% to 43%), immigration (51% to 45%), and foreign policy (51% to 45%). A majority said they trust the Democratic Party to handle abortion more than the Republican Party (53% to 42%).
Voters who identify as Democrat named abortion as the most important issue (43%), followed by inflation (18%), gun policy (13%), crime (10%), and immigration (5%). Voters who identify as Republican prioritized inflation (43%) followed by immigration (16%), abortion (14%), crime (12%), and gun policy (7%).
Voters who identify as Independent said inflation was the most important issue (33%) followed by abortion (26%), gun policy (13%), crime (12%), and immigration (9%).
The gloomy economy factored into the vote
Three quarters of all voters said the economy is in not-so-good or poor condition. That’s a 45-point shift from 2018, when 31% of voters said the economy was not so good or poor.
Nationwide, 47% of voters said that compared to two years ago their family’s financial situation is worse. Only 19% said they are in a better financial situation than they were two years ago, and 33% said their finances are about the same. In 2018, 36% said their financial situation was better than two years ago, and only 14% said they were in a worse situation.
Two in 10 voters said that in the last year, inflation has caused them a severe hardship and nearly six in 10 said it caused them a moderate hardship. Only 19% reported that recent inflation has not caused them hardship.
An overwhelming 65% of voters said that gas prices have been a financial hardship for them recently.
Negative views of the Dobbs decision propelled the abortion issue
When asked if they are dissatisfied or angry about the Supreme Court decision this year that overturned Roe v. Wade, 61% of voters saying they were. That includes 21% who said they were dissatisfied with the ruling and 39% who said they were angry. Only 16% said they were enthusiastic about the decision, and 21% reported being satisfied.
About three in 10 women said they were angry about the decision, compared to about a quarter of men.
When it comes to abortion overall, 60% said that it should be legal and 37% said it should be illegal.
Biden was not a factor for voters
Neither was Trump: 47% of midterm voters said that Joe Biden was not a factor in their vote and 54% said Trump was not a factor.
The exit poll found 44% of voters approve of the way President Biden is handling his job as president, and 55% disapprove.
Sixty-seven percent said they would not like to see Biden run for president in 2024, and only three in 10 said they would like to see the president run for re-election.
Asked whether Biden’s policies are mostly hurting the country, 47% said they were, and 33% said they are mostly helping the country. Another 18% said Biden’s policies are not making a difference either way.
Midterm voters expressed strong concerns about the state of democracy
Asked if they think democracy in the U.S. today is threatened, 68% said yes. Only 30% said they think democracy is secure. Among voters who said they think democracy is threatened, 50% voted for the Democratic candidate for House and 48% voted for the Republican candidate. Among those who said democracy is secure, 46% voted for the Democratic candidate and 52% voted for the Republican candidate.
But when it comes to elections, an overwhelming 79% said they are confident that elections in their state are being conducted fairly and accurately, and 19% are not confident.
Only 27% of those voting for GOP house candidates said they are very confident that elections are being conducted fairly and accurately, compared to 68% of Democratic candidate voters.
Note: The exit poll is the only survey of known voters. It was conducted as voters left polling places across the country. To account for the high number of early and absentee voters and ensure a sample that accurately represents the ways all Americans cast their ballots nationwide, the exit poll includes extensive interviews with early in-person voters as well as telephone surveys.