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What’s Changed in Two Years? Five Key Takeaways from the Exit Polls
Trump, abortion, and the economy...more than meets the eye
However you view the 2022 mid-term results for Republicans, there are some essential insights that most in the press have missed, and the GOP would do well to pay attention to in the run-up to 2024. In comparing CNN’s exit polls from the 2020 Presidential election and their 2022 national House elections, there are five critical, but overlooked, insights the GOP should heed as we move forward.
Takeaway #1: Trump’s favorability rating plummeted among Republican voters
I don’t think I am spilling any state secrets when I say President Trump has always been a polarizing figure; those that hate him, Nazi-ize him, and those that love him beatify him. Independents are critical in every election, but for Trump, it was additionally vital to ensure that moderate Republicans could, at the very least, hold their collective noses and vote for him. In 2020, Trump scored a 94% favorability rating with those who voted for him. To be sure, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy to a degree; after all, who wants to admit they just voted for a guy they hate? But, using that as the baseline, it should be very concerning that among those who voted Republican in 2022, his favorability dropped to 74%, a massive 18-point decline in two years. Has Trump changed in the past two years? No, but he’s been significantly less visible due to his banishment from polite society (aka- the social media platforms), which some Republicans thought would be a good development for him because, to a degree, the less you see of Trump, the better. So, what gives? Was this cope from the GOP? Was the much-derided January 6th commission more successful than initially thought? Whatever the answer, the GOP needs to determine how pervasive this sentiment is. If Trump is to become the nominee in 2024 and even a tiny percentage of those who changed their minds about him in the past two years decide they can’t vote for him, that is a significant issue.
I should note that, similarly, Joe Biden lost 14 points in his favorability rating among his voting base, but who knows if he will run again. Additionally, President “Weekend at Bernie’s” is simply a figurehead. Granted, he’s a corrupt, creepy, incontinent one, but simply less polarizing than Trump. Maybe a Republican investigation into his dealings in Hunter’s businesses will change that, but that remains to be seen.
Takeaway #2: Democrats aren’t feeling the economic downturn, yet
After the Dobbs decision came down, the question hanging over the 2022 mid-terms was, how much of an effect will it have? While no one was surprised that it had an impact, the fact that it was the second-biggest issue (27%), nearly overtaking inflation (31%), had people cleaning their proverbial glasses. But when we dig deeper into the numbers, the effect was even more profound; among Democrat voters, abortion was the top voting issue over inflation by nearly 2.5:1 (48% and 20%, respectively).
How could this be? Don’t people know the economy is in a state of free fall? That we’ve had two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth (which in the past would have been called a recession, but I digress)? That when Biden took office, the median Consumer Price Index (i.e., inflation) was at 1.5% and reached as high as 9.2% in August? That the housing affordability index has plummeted? It doesn’t seem like it.
Is the What’s the Matter with Kansas effect, but in reverse? No, the answer is much more straightforward than that. Democrats are simply either not feeling the impact of the economic downturn or aren’t admitting it. For example, number one million of the “we’re living in different countries” segment of the show, consider these data points:
When asked to compare their “family’s financial situation to two years ago,” 75% of GOP voters said it was “worse,” while 81% of Dems said it was “better” or the “same.”
When asked about the state of the economy, 95% of GOP voters said it was “not good” or “poor,” while 43% of Dems said it was “excellent” or “good.”
In the effect inflation is having on them, 29% of the GOP said it was having a “severe effect” (vs. 12% of Dems), and 30% of Dems said it was having “no effect” (vs. 9% of GOP)
We can speculate on why this split in the US economic situation is occurring, but it is clearly there. If we believe in James Carville’s nearly tautological advice, “it’s the economy stupid,” we have to ask ourselves, when isn’t it the economy? When people aren’t worried about it, apparently.
Give this a share, if you would…
Takeaway #3: Republican voters are moderating on abortion
While it was easy to suspect that Dobbs would harden Democrats’ views on the issue, what likely wasn’t expected, was how it would shift Republican perspectives as well. In Democrats, we unsurprisingly saw 12 and 2 two-point increases in the belief that abortions should be “legal in all cases” or “legal in most cases,” respectively; however, we also saw a shift to the left among Republican voters. There was a 12-point drop in the belief that abortions should be “illegal in all cases,” with a corresponding increase in “illegal in most cases” and “legal in most cases,” of 9 and 7 points, respectively.
It could be that some Republicans liked the outlawing of abortion more in theory than in reality. It is also reasonable to assume much geographical variation, but national Republican candidates should beware of this trend and modulate their messaging on the issue accordingly. Interestingly, President Trump didn’t address the topic in his announcement this week. Maybe his gut instinct pushed him away from the topic, but whatever the reason, it seems he was right to avoid it.
Takeaway #4: What happened to racism?
In 2020, 92% of Biden voters said racism was either “the most important problem” or “an important problem.” Amazing how quickly we solved that issue, huh? Good work, everyone.
Takeaway #5: Democrats question election fairness, too
It’s been well documented by the RNC, among other places, that Democrats refuse to accept election results anytime their guy loses. However, even now, 1/3 of Democrat voters in the mid-terms are not “very confident” that their state’s elections are fair and accurate. My, my…look at all that election denial going on over there, you fascists.
Bonus Takeaway: The disappearance of President Biden’s health
In 2020, 89% of Dems thought that Biden had the “physical/mental health to serve as President.” Surprisingly enough, they didn’t ask that question this year. I can’t imagine why.