(NEW YORK) — Broad Republican advantages in trust to tame inflation and handle crime are keeping the party in a strong position for the 2022 midterm elections in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, albeit off the historic peak in vote preference the GOP attained last fall.
Americans trust the Republican Party over the Democrats to handle inflation, by 19% points; the economy more generally, by 14 points; and crime, by a dozen points. Trust in the Republicans to handle crime is its highest (by a single point) in ABC/Post results back 32 years; trust on the economy, just slightly off its high two months ago.
On the Democratic side, Joe Biden’s job approval as president remains underwater, but with a 5-point gain since February, aided by better ratings for handling the coronavirus pandemic (+7 points) and the war in Ukraine (+9). Still, 52% of Americans disapprove of Biden’s performance overall, versus 42% who approve. Those who “strongly” disapprove outnumber strong approvers by a 2-1 margin, potentially indicating motivation to vote in the fall.
Moreover, with inflation its highest in 40 years, Biden’s rating for handling inflation is dramatically bad in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates: 68% of Americans disapprove. Fewer but still 57% disapprove of his work on the economy more broadly.
Looking to November, registered voters divide essentially evenly between Democratic and Republican candidates for Congress, 46-45%. That’s a comedown for the GOP from its lead of 7 points in February and 10 points last November — the latter, the largest Republican midterm advantage in ABC/Post polls back 40 years. The change is led by a close contest among political independents, swing voters in most national elections, from a 50-32% Republican lead in November to an even 42-42% now.
That said, a close overall division in congressional vote preferences among registered voters in pre-election polls historically has been sufficient to signal strong Republican outcomes. That was the case in 2010, when the GOP gained 63 seats in the House; and 1994, when it gained 54 seats. (Less so in 2014, but still a 13-seat GOP win.)
Inflation is a major irritant. Half of Americans are concerned about it; an additional 44%, not only concerned but upset about it. Just 6% are unconcerned.
Views on inflation are associated with partisanship and vote preferences. Among registered voters who are upset about inflation (disproportionately Republicans), GOP House candidates lead their Democratic opponents by 63-26%. Among those who are concerned but not upset (plus the few who are unconcerned), this reverses to 62-30% for the Democrats.
In another economic indicator, with unemployment nearly back to its pre-pandemic level, Americans by 50-43% think good-paying jobs are easy to find in their community. That doesn’t help the Democrats, though, because registered voters who say good jobs are available in their area favor Republican candidates by a 10-point margin. And comparatively few people are looking for jobs, while everyone’s paying higher prices.
While the GOP leads on the economy and crime, the parties are essentially tied on the issue of immigration and close in trust to handle education. The Democrats have a lead on abortion (+10 points), worth watching as the Supreme Court readies a ruling on a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The Democratic Party vaults to extensive leads on two other issues, both related to social equity: Equal treatment of racial and ethnic groups, on which it’s trusted over the Republican Party by 52-31%; and equal treatment of groups regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, a 55-26% Democratic advantage.
Among groups, women generally are more apt than men to trust Democrats on the issues tested; in one example, the Republican Party has a 56-29% lead on the economy among men, compared with a split, 44-43%, among women. Similar to men, whites trust the GOP on the economy by 30 points; people in racial and ethnic minority groups favor the Democrats, but by a slimmer 11-point margin. Independents tilt Republican by 16 points; 15% of independents volunteer that they don’t trust either party on the economy.
Biden’s approval rating does not place him in enviable company. Only one previous president at about this point in office had higher disapproval — Donald Trump, at 56% — in polls dating to the Truman administration. (Four of his 13 predecessors have had about Biden’s level of approval).
Looking at it another way doesn’t offer Democrats any more encouragement. While Biden’s standing just ahead of the November election remains to be seen, it’s currently similar to Trump’s going into his first midterm (40%; his party lost 40 seats). It’s worse than Barack Obama’s approval in October 2010 (50%, loss of 63 seats); Bill Clinton’s in 1994 (48%, loss of 54 seats) and Ronald Reagan’s in 1982 (49%, loss of 26 seats). The exception is Jimmy Carter, who lost fewer seats, but still 15, in his first midterm, with 49% approval. There’s time, of course, for Biden’s approval rating to change.
Specifically on the economy, Biden’s poor rating is essentially unchanged from February; it includes a 25-point deficit among independents. In terms of his even worse rating on inflation, 38% within his own party disapprove, as do 42% of liberals, a stalwart Democratic group. Disapproval on inflation rises to 65% among moderates, 74% among independents and nine in 10 Republicans and conservatives alike.
Again, given low unemployment, Biden does less poorly — but not well — on creating jobs; 41% approve, 46% disapprove. His rating is similar on handling the war in Ukraine, 42-47%, approve-disapprove. In this case, while still underwater, approval is up 9 points since February, with a corresponding drop in those with no opinion. Disapproval is unchanged.
Biden peeks above 50% on handling one remaining issue tested in this survey, the pandemic: Here he has a 51-43% approval rating, a turnaround from 44-50% as the Omicron variant raged two months ago.
Overall, as mentioned, Biden’s general job approval rating is up 5 points, to 42%, from his low as president in February. That includes his best rating among Hispanic people (62% approve) since just after he took office and +9 points since February among urban residents.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone April 24-28, 2022, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,004 adults, including 907 registered voters. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions in the full sample are 29-25-40%, Democrats-Republicans-independents, and 30-26-38% among registered voters.
The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates. See details on the survey’s methodology here.
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