These Issues Drive Voters to Polls as Midterm Elections Conclude

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Concerns over inflation and the economy are driving voters to the polls. 

After three rounds of polling, Heritage Action for America Communications Director Noah Weinrich says the economy and inflation are the top issues for between 30% and 50% of voters.

“And even for the other voters who have another issue as their top concern, the economy is in their top three,” Weinrich says. 

Abortion, border security, and crime are three other leading concerns for voters, he said. 

Weinrich joins “The Daily Signal” podcast to discuss the issues dominating the midterm elections and the biggest races to watch on Election Day.

Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:

Virginia Allen: We are joined today by the director of communications for Heritage Action for America, Noah Weinrich. Noah, welcome to the show. [Note: Heritage Action for America is the grassroots arm of The Heritage Foundation, where The Daily Signal is the multimedia news organization.]

Noah Weinrich: Thank you for having me.

Allen: So, Heritage Action is the independent sister organization of The Heritage Foundation. You all are engaged in political fights in states across the country. And while everyone has thoughts and opinions on what the most important issues are this Election Day, we know that you all in Heritage Action, you all have actually done polling to look at what are the issues that are driving voters to the polls today. So tell us, what is on the minds of voters? What are those key issues for them?

Weinrich: Yeah, absolutely. So, we’ve done polling all year. We did three rounds of polling this year. We’ve found that the issues have stayed pretty consistent. The top issue has been the economy and inflation. Every poll we’ve done and every other outside poll we’ve seen, it ranges from 30% of voters to 50%, that is their top concern. And even for the other voters who have another issue as their top concern, the economy is in their top three. So, that is going to be the dominant factor in the elections [Tuesday].

Other issues close behind, depending on the poll you look at, is abortion or safety and security issues. … The mainstream media would like to say that this is only about the economy and abortion. That’s really not true. A pretty small fraction of voters are concerned about abortion as their top issue, and a lot of those are conservatives. The last poll I saw, 17% had abortion as their top issue.

But a higher number, I think 18% or 19% had border security and crime as their top issue. That’s kind of been the sleeper issue. Until the last month or two, the corporate media was not talking at all about crime and border security, even though we know that’s been a dominant theme, especially in some states like Arizona or Texas, where border security is a huge issue to them, or Wisconsin, where crime and public order are a huge issue.

So, those are going to be huge factors today, as voters head to the polls. They’re not necessarily thinking about [President Joe] Biden talking about these abstract, so-called threats to democracy. They’re thinking about how am I going to afford to put food on the table? Am I going to know that my neighborhood is secure tonight? Am I going to know that our border is secure; that fentanyl is not coming across the border; that millions of human beings are being trafficked across the border? That’s going to be a bigger issue to them as they head to the polls.

Allen: And when you look at that breakdown between Republicans and Democrats, let’s take the issue of abortion, because obviously since Roe v. Wade was overturned, this is an issue that has become a major topic during the election on both sides. Is it largely more important for Republicans than it is for Democrats, or vice versa?

Weinrich: Yeah, according to the polls we’re seeing, it’s more important for Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents than [for] Republicans. And I think that’s because, for Republicans, the momentum is good for them. After [Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization] overturned Roe v. Wade, then states were able to start, for the first time in 50 years, to start enacting real protections for unborn lives. And so, in a lot of these states, the Republicans are thinking, “Great! My state just enacted this awesome protection against abortion.” So, that’s not their top concern. Things are going well for them in that regard. Things are not going well for the economy. So, they’re concerned about the economy.

Meanwhile, a lot of Democrats are thinking, “Wow, for the first time in decades, our side is losing. I’m very upset about this. I’m going to go vote on this.” And they may care less about … obviously, they care less about something like border security because they’ve been kind of conditioned to not care about it. But they’re going to think about abortion even ahead of the economy because in their minds, well, a lot of them are not concerned about the economy because they think, well, “Biden’s got it. He’s handling it. It’s going to be OK.” But they are concerned about abortion because their side is losing on that. And so, we see about a 2-to-1 split of Democrats or pro-choicers more concerned about abortion than Republicans and pro-lifers.

Allen: What about the issue of immigration? Is there a similar split there between Republicans and Democrats?

Weinrich: A similar split, but not quite as pronounced. So, there are actually a lot of Democrats who were concerned, and a lot of independents. So, it’s not quite as polarized as the abortion issue. You get more independents who are concerned about immigration, and true independents as well. So, it’s a pretty similar split, but not quite as polarized.

I would say crime is even less polarized, crime and the economy. A surprising number of Democrats or left-leaning independents are concerned about crime and economy and the inflation because it’s just so hard to deny. How can you deny that you’re paying more for a gallon of gas? How can you deny that your car got broken into on your street last week? That kind of thing is really breaking across ideological lines.

Allen: It affects everyone. What about the issue of education? How does that poll?

Weinrich: Yeah, so that polls, as it’s something that a lot of voters are concerned about. It’s not the top issue for most voters. The top issue for most voters is, again, how do I put food on the table? How do I make sure that my neighborhood is secure? But, for a lot of voters, the majority of voters, it’s probably in their top five. It’s not the No. 1 issue for many people, but it’s a lot of No. 3 and No. 4. And it plays more on a local level because rightly, your local elected officials and your state elected officials have a much bigger part to play in education than the federal government. Your senator should not be dictating the funding policies for your local school district. That’s the school board.

And so, when you see a lot of these national polls, you’ll see education. Education is not going to be one of the top issues, but that’s because [pollsters are] asking, in determining your vote for Congress, what are your top issues? If you ask for governor or school board or local representative, that’s going to look very different.

Allen: Got it. That makes sense. Now, there’s some very significant races this election. Which ones are you going to be watching really closely tonight?

Weinrich: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, there’s a lot of races; too many to count. The Senate is going to be the most closely watched. In the last few weeks, it’s been breaking for Republicans. It had been really a toss-up before. Now, it’s looking likely Republican. But that margin is still up in the air. Could be anywhere from 51 to 54 seats, or 55, if something wild happens. I’m going to be looking at, I think, the four or five true toss-ups, which I think all lean Republican at this point—Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire.

So again, the momentum is on the side of the Republicans for every one of those. I think they all lean or are likely Republican. But you never know. I mean, all of these races are pretty much within the polling margin of error. We know that the polling underestimates Republicans, but we don’t know by how much. In previous races, in 2016, Republicans were underestimated by 3 [points]. In 2018, they were underestimated by 2.5. In 2020, they were underestimated by five. And so how big that margin is, that will determine how many seats we get. So, those races are going to be important.

[Republican candidate for governor] Kari Lake in Arizona, it’s going to be really interesting. She has done a phenomenal job, and she’s really broken out more than people expected. Tiffany Smiley in Washington, she has an outside shot of breaking through in this very blue state, where Patty Murray has won by double digits [every six years] since 1992. So, that would be a huge landslide for conservatives if somehow that Senate seat were flipped.

There’s some House races around the country, honestly, too many to name. But there’s some like Monica De La Cruz Hernandez [and] Cassy Garcia in Texas, Yvette Herrell in New Mexico, some of the races in New Hampshire, Nevada as well. Those are really swing districts that, if they turn Republican, that’s going to mean a huge wave in the House. We expect to see at least 20 seats flip in the House, but if some of those flip, then that could be 40 or 50 seats, even.

Allen: And there’s also some interesting initiatives being voted on on ballots, specifically regarding the issue of abortion. There’s five states that have something abortion-related on their ballots, so they’re asking the folks in the state to weigh in on. Which ones are you watching really closely?

Weinrich: That’s a good question. I have not been following those as closely as you, unfortunately. I’ve been following the Michigan one, of course. The woman who was shot while canvassing for that was actually a Heritage Action Sentinel. She’s one of our volunteers. She’s an amazing woman. So, if you haven’t heard the story, she was canvassing for Prop 3 to make sure that Michigan can still pass pro-life protections. And she was shot on the doorstep of somebody she was canvassing. So it’s a tragic story, and we’re seeing more stories like that across the country. There was a [Sen. Marco] Rubio supporter down in Florida that was injured while canvassing. But that’s what broke that through to my attention. So, I’ll be watching that one very closely.

Allen: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I’m going to actually be in Michigan covering that and just sort of seeing how things unravel today. So, stay tuned more for more coverage on what happens with Michigan. But I know that Heritage Action, you all have been looking at how things are going to unfold, and trying to get a sense of what the future holds. So, let’s follow a few sort of hypotheticals. Let’s say that Republicans take the House and the Senate, they have a majority in both, realistically speaking, what would they actually be able to get done, given the fact that Democrats control the Executive Branch?

Noah Weinrich: Yeah, I mean, that’s the million-dollar question, and the fact that we won’t have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. So, Democrats will still be able to filibuster things there.

It’s going to be tough. You don’t have the presidency, and elections do matter. We’re not going to be able to get done as much as we’d like to, because the Executive Branch is controlled by Biden and his Democratic staff. So, oversight is going to be really important in both the House and the Senate, but particularly in the House, holding the Biden administration accountable, uncovering the truth about what’s happening in those administrative agencies, holding hearings, using the oversight powers of subpoenas, things like that. That’s going to be hugely important.

I would look for a few areas of possible bipartisan compromise. Maybe something on Big Tech, oversight of social media companies, maybe some antitrust reform for Big Tech companies. And then there’ll be must-pass legislation like the [National Defense Authorization Act] or government funding where those bills have to pass one way or the other. And so, the party in control will have opportunities to make reforms and tweaks to those bills that the president will actually have to sign. Right now you’re seeing, since Democrats are in control, they’re trying to put things like Draft our Daughters into the NDAA. Or in government funding, they’re going to pass a large tranche of unaccountable Ukraine funding that frankly, Republicans won’t have the leverage to stop.

So, Republicans will have the opportunity to get some legislative wins there as well, but nothing like a sweeping package that the president would have to sign off on, because frankly, he’ll be able to veto that. So, there are some areas where conservatives and Republicans will have some wins. A lot of it’s going to be building momentum for 2025, when I think we will have a conservative president who will actually sign off on some good legislation. Some of it will be building muscle memory, getting bills either introduced or passed, but then we’ll have an opportunity in the next Congress to actually advance and get signed.

Allen: And what if Democrats maintain control of both the House and Senate, what happens?

Weinrich: Oh, gosh, I don’t even want to think about that. It’ll be a lot of the same that we’ve seen the last two years. And conservatives have done an admirable job of blocking stuff, but they haven’t blocked everything. The Inflation Reduction Act, so-called, which actually increases inflation, got passed. We blocked some stuff last year. We blocked S.1 and H.R.4, their electoral power-grab acts. We blocked court-packing and D.C. statehood and everything like that. But it’ll be a much tougher road than if Democrats maintain control.

Allen: Give us tips on election-watching tonight. I know you’re going to be watching everything rolling in. Any pro tips on best ways to enjoy the election coverage tonight?

Weinrich: Yeah, so, Senate, we’re probably not going to know who’s going to have control over the Senate on election night unless there is a serious Republican wave. New Hampshire, they have great election laws there. It’s pretty much day-of only and in person. So, you’re going to know quickly that night. And they’re East Coast, so you’re going to know quickly the results of New Hampshire. It’s a small state. So, you’ll know that on election night.

Georgia, you should know on election night. However, Georgia is fairly likely to go at a runoff in the Senate. If [Republican nominee] Herschel Walker wins outright, if he clears 50%, that’ll be big. So if New Hampshire and Georgia win outright, which you’ll know early, then that basically means 51 seats. Or if you get later in the night, if Georgia doesn’t win outright, if you get Arizona, if Arizona comes in … . It may take a couple days for Arizona. We’ll see, unfortunately. They should be able to count on an election night. But if Arizona has a wide lead, most of the ballots are counted, then that’ll also mean 51.

Nevada will probably take longer. Pennsylvania will probably take longer, since unfortunately, they have a heavily vote-by-mail system. And in Pennsylvania, they don’t even start counting the ballots until the morning of Election Day. So, that could take days. And there’s currently a court battle over whether or not to allow undated mail-in ballots to come in after the election.

So, unfortunately, it’s going to take a while. Other than that … time zones are going to be big. A lot of the contentious races are out west, so it’s going to be a late night. Washington, Nevada, Arizona, they’re going to be late. Some of these states that have a lot of mail-in ballots, it’s going to take a long time.

So … get a lot of rest the night before. Get some Red Bulls. Get some coffee. Or call it an early night, wake up in the next morning, maybe you’ll see some new results.

Allen: Noah, thank you so much for your time today. We appreciate you breaking this down for us.

Weinrich: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for having me.

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