The following is an excerpt from Gallup News.
The midterm elections loom less than two months away.
Economy and Inflation Are the Top Issues
Data from Gallup and other polls show that the economy -- and inflation in particular -- are Americans' top concerns leading into the Nov. 8 midterm elections.
We see this in open-ended questions asking about top problems. And we see it in polls that query voters directly on their election concerns, all showing that inflation and/or the economy rise to the top of the list of potential issues.
Views of the Current Economy
Gallup's Economic Confidence Index is at one of its lowest points over the past 30 years (although not as low as in 2008). About eight in 10 Americans rate the economy as "only fair" or "poor," and over two-thirds say the economy is getting worse, not better.
Personal Pain of Inflation Highlights Its Importance as an Issue
Surveys show that Americans are personally feeling the negative effects of inflation, highlighting its potency as an issue this fall.
An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll conducted earlier this month similarly shows that twice as many Americans say their personal finances have gotten worse over the past year as say they have gotten better. And over seven in 10 report they "have had to cut back on, at least, one necessity or nicety in the past six months to meet their monthly expenses."
The Democrats' Inflation Reduction Act
The act contains a number of components, including increased spending on climate change, lowering drug prices, increased funding for the IRS, extending Affordable Care Act subsidies and increasing taxes on corporations.
The name of the bill is a tribute to attention paid to voters' concerns. But saying the legislation will reduce inflation doesn't mean it will do so.
In fact, Americans seem to approve of the bill in general while they remain doubtful about its ultimate efficaciousness.
A CBS News poll conducted just after the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law found that 34% of registered voters said they had heard or read a lot about it.
Initial research on the legislation, however, shows Americans have a more positive than negative reaction to it.
Additionally, polls show support for many of the specific components of the legislation, including drug pricing reforms and actions related to climate change. These findings suggest that the public is generally in sync with many of the specifics of the bill (and of course, with its intent).
But polls also show that Americans are not convinced the bill will fulfill its stated promise.
Other Proposals to Reduce Inflation
Republicans maintain the edge across a number of recent polls when voters are asked which party can do the best job on economic issues.
In addition to criticizing Democrats' actions on the economy, Republicans have addressed the issue themselves.
Earlier this summer, for example, the Republican House Ways and Means Committee proposed a number of steps to fight inflation: "Cut Wasteful Spending, Lower Taxes, Boost Investment, Cut Red Tape, and Unleash American Energy."
In reference to these suggestions, a majority of U.S. adults say the amount of federal income taxes they pay is too high but also favor higher taxes on upper-income Americans and on corporations.
The "cut wasteful spending" recommendation represents a recurring theme for the GOP. Republican Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri, as one example, argues that the nation is in "an inflation crisis brought on by reckless spending coming out of Washington."
There is evidence that Americans are open to the idea of less government involvement and spending as a cure for inflation:
- A Penn State poll conducted in May found that reducing government spending was the most frequently chosen option as "the best way for the federal government to fight inflation."
- An April poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies told respondents that "government spending went from $4.4 trillion in 2019 to $6.8 trillion in 2021" and found 73% agreement that this increase has been a major cause of higher prices.
- And, on the broader issue of government intervention in daily life, Gallup finds that after a shift in attitudes in 2020 during the Covid crisis, Americans have tilted toward saying that the government is doing too much to solve problems (a Republican position) as opposed to not enough (a Democratic position).
Increased federal spending tends to result in an increased federal deficit. But the deficit itself remains an issue about which Americans have mixed sentiments.
In July, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed that the federal budget deficit was fifth in importance on a list of eight issues (based on those who said it was "very important") when Americans were asked how important each issue was to their midterm vote.
The Federal Reserve
The Federal Reserve's actions are critically important to the trajectory of inflation. It is not clear at this point how much of an election issue the Fed will be.
The Federal Reserve is balancing two goals in relation to the economy -- taming inflation while attempting to maintain economic growth and vitality.
Does the public favor one of these goals over the other?
A poll of registered voters conducted in September 2015 by the Public Policy Polling group showed that, given a choice, 55% of voters said the Federal Reserve should focus on "creating more jobs and higher wages" while 38% said it should prioritize "ensuring that inflation does not get any higher."
The economy and inflation are, at this point, the most important issues Americans will take into account when voting in November's midterm elections.
Americans would in theory like to see the government reduce federal spending.
At the same time, the public has endorsed many of the huge spending bills enacted since 2020 with the onset of Covid, suggesting some caution since Americans like the results of government spending even while evidencing trepidation about it in principle.
Read full Gallup analysis here.
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