As a new Congress takes power on Tuesday, a poll of the American public shows that economic issues continue to rank above other policy areas.
The midterm elections saw Republicans narrowly clinch control of the House of Representatives as Democrats gained one seat in the Senate, breaking the federal trifecta that allowed President Joe Biden to enact much of his legislative agenda during the first two years of his administration. Over the past six months, Americans have increased their focus on the overall economy while seeing inflationary pressures as less of a threat, according to a poll from the Associated Press and the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center.
The poll was conducted among 1,124 American adults from December 1-5 and had a margin of error of 3.8%.
Roughly 31% of respondents said in December 2022 that they would like to see the federal government tackle economic issues in the coming year, marking an increase from 24% in June 2022. The relative importance of inflation in particular decreased over the same period but represented the second most important issue for the respondents, with the share of Americans calling for federal solutions dropping from 40% in June to 30% in December.
The decline occurs as the Federal Reserve establishes higher target interest rates and year-over-year inflation began to decline. The metric fell from 9% in June to 7.1% in November, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The issue of immigration remains the third most frequently cited, with 27% of Americans citing the matter as a concern in December, a slight increase from 24% in June. As many as 5.5 million migrants have entered the United States under the Biden administration, according to data from the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Other issues mentioned by respondents were climate change and health care reform, which saw respective increases of 17% to 26% and 6% to 17%, as well as gun issues, which declined from 30% to 19%. Education and student debt remained relatively constant at 19%, while crime and violence saw an increase from 11% to 16%.
The number of Americans considering abortion as a top priority dropped from 16% to 11%. The June version of the poll was taken as the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the ruling which asserted that there exists a constitutional right to abortion.
Republicans saw a lackluster performance in the midterms despite the public’s concern over the state of the economy. Record inflation and border crossings were consistently identified by voters as top concerns even as they cast ballots for Democrats at a higher rate than many commentators had anticipated. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), a candidate for Speaker of the House, unveiled a “Commitment to America” before the midterm election that emphasized economic stability, border security, and crime reduction.
Confidence that lawmakers can address pertinent issues remains low among members of both major parties, according to the survey, which showed that 68% of Democrats and 78% of Republicans are “slightly or not at all confident” in the federal government. Only 4% of overall respondents have “much confidence in the government’s ability to make progress on important problems,” 22% are somewhat confident, and 73% have little or no confidence in the government’s ability to address the country’s problems.
In the same vein, only 21% expect that 2023 will be a better year than 2022, while 24% believe this year will be worse than last.