New National UMass Amherst Poll Measures Voters’ Fear, Anger and Worries Approaching Midterm Elections
Topline results and crosstabs for the poll can be found at www.umass.edu/poll
AMHERST, Mass. – As the nation approaches the 2022 midterm elections, American voters expressed fear, anger and a great deal of worry in a new national University of Massachusetts Amherst Poll, the results of which were released today.
Nearly three-quarters of Democratic voters (74%) and 65% of Republican voters said that they will be angry – and three-quarters of both party’s voters said they will be afraid – if the opposing party takes control of Congress, the poll of 1,000 respondents found.
“As each national election has increasingly been viewed by the public as a zero-sum affair, in which one party wins and another loses, and as candidates on both sides of the partisan divide tout each election as the ‘most important of our lifetimes,’ it is no shock that majorities of both Democratic and Republican voters express fear and anger if the opposing party takes control of the U.S. Congress,” says Tatishe Nteta, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and director of the poll.
Nearly two-thirds of Democratic voters (64%) and two in five Republicans (41%) are concerned about the possibility of violence associated with the elections.
“Nearly half of Americans (48%) are concerned about the possibility of violence following the midterms,” says Raymond La Raja, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll. “The images of the January 6 insurrection linger. It will be imperative this election for losing candidates to concede gracefully. Given the pre-election rhetoric making false claims about election fraud, I’m not optimistic some of them will take this route.”
“Large majorities of both Democrats and Republicans express fear and anger about the prospects of the other party taking control of Congress after the 2022 midterms, with Democrats expressing especially high levels of these emotions,” says Jesse Rhodes, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll. “Increasingly, both Democrats and Republicans perceive that the other party is not only a source of policy disagreement, but also danger. The fact that so many partisans perceive the other party as a major threat should be a source of serious concern for everyone who cares about American democracy. When people view the other party as a danger, it provides a justification to take extraordinary – and even illegal – actions to prevent the other party from wielding power.”
Economic Concerns Driving Voters’ Decisions, though Parties’ Prospects for House and Senate Differ
The UMass Poll found that the economy is, by far, the issue that is driving voters’ concerns as they decide for whom they will cast their ballot on Nov. 8.
“As the nation approaches the 2022 midterm election, voters have their mind on their money and their money on their mind,” Nteta says. “Close to 60% of Americans express a ‘great deal’ of worry about inflation in the U.S., a whopping 46% view the state of the national economy as ‘poor,’ and close to one-third of respondents selected ‘the economy’ as the most important issue that will influence their decision Election Day. If the upcoming midterm election does indeed boil down to ‘the economy, stupid,’ then the Democratic Party and President Joe Biden are in for a long night on November 8.”
“The economy is dominating Americans’ perceptions as the most important issue in the election, and this is especially true for Republicans and Independents,” Rhodes says. “This is bad news for Democrats who, given their unified control of the federal government, are responsible for economic management. The high salience of the economy – attributable to high inflation and the high expected cost of home heating this winter – likely explains increasing support for the Republican Party in our poll.”
Indeed, support for Republican House candidates ticked up two points from a previous UMass Poll conducted in May, with 40% of the latest poll’s respondents indicating that they would vote for the GOP candidate from their congressional district. Conversely, support for Democratic congressional candidates edged down a point from May’s UMass Poll.
“With inflation still hovering around record levels and energy prices poised to skyrocket this winter, Republican candidates from California to Maine have pointed the finger at the Democratic Party and President Joe Biden for the economic challenges facing the nation,” Nteta says. “Their message has seemingly resonated with voters as support for GOP candidates in the House of Representatives has increased while support for Democratic candidates has slightly dipped since our last polling. While there is still time left in the race and close to 20% of voters have yet to make up their mind, expect Republican candidates, in their quest to regain control of the House, to continue to hammer the Democratic Party over their handling of the economy.”
“However, in states with Senate races, Democrats seem to have a strong lead in popular approval,” Rhodes notes, “this likely reflects the reality that, in some Senate races, Republican primary voters selected relatively extreme candidates that may have difficulty connecting with general election voters. At this point, it seems likely that Republicans will win control of the House, but Democrats will retain control of the Senate.”
“Once again there are significant gender and age gaps between those who support congressional candidates in either party,” La Raja notes. “Women support the Democratic House candidates by a margin of roughly 10 points, while young people favor them by 14 points. The success of Democrats in key House races may hinge on levels of turnout from these two groups.”
“A Pivotal Election for the Country and for American Democracy”
The poll also gauged voters’ excitement about the midterms, and their views of the importance of the elections’ results.
“A huge majority of Americans – 77% – perceive that the midterm elections are important for the future of the nation, and smaller, but still very large, majorities of both Democrats (64%) and Republicans (68%) are excited to vote in upcoming weeks,” Rhodes says. “These findings point to the likelihood of large – and possibly historic – turnout in what most Americans believe is a pivotal election for the country and for American democracy.”
“In the past six months we have seen a drop in excitement from both Republicans and Democrats about voting in the midterms,” La Raja says. “Democrats report a nine-point drop in excitement from 73% to 64%, while Republicans report an 11-point decline from 79% to 68%. Excitement is still high, but the decrease could have many causes. It’s possible that people were riveted to politics by the war in Ukraine back in the spring, or that enthusiasm is dampened by the range of household challenges facing Americans, including inflation.”
While the economy dominates as the most important issue that voters said concerns them as the elections approach, the health of our democracy ranks second and is the primary concern of Democratic respondents of the poll.
“In their efforts to mobilize their base to turnout on Election Day, the Democratic Party and President Joe Biden initially sought to tout their various policy accomplishments from the passage of the infrastructure bill to student loan forgiveness,” Nteta says. “However, for Democratic voters the 2022 election is more about the future stability of the nation, as the most important issue for Democrats in the upcoming election is the continued health and well-being of the American democracy. Thus, it is no surprise that in recent weeks, President Biden and Democratic congressional candidates on the campaign trail have shifted gears and have begun to discuss the purported threat that Republican control of the U.S. Congress may pose to the future of American democracy. We will have to wait until November 8 to see if this late shift in messaging will buck the decades long trend of an incumbent president’s party losing seats and subsequent control of the U.S. Congress.”
“Going into the midterm elections, Americans are very concerned about the future of American democracy and believe that the elections could have big consequences for democracy in the United States,” Rhodes says. “It’s deeply concerning that some Americans believe our democracy is in trouble. The silver lining may be that anxiety about the future of American democracy may encourage more Americans to be vigilant about and engaged in democratic politics. In the end, public engagement is the only sure safeguard of democratic politics.”
La Raja notes that there are substantial differences in the level of trust each party’s voters have toward the upcoming elections’ integrity.
“The battle cries of Republican election deniers have severely damaged trust in elections,” he says. “Fifty-two percent of Republicans say they are not confident or are unsure that the midterm elections will be fair and accurate, but just 18% of Democrats say this. In the near term, we can expect partisan fights over who won a closely contested congressional or state election. Over the long term, this kind of thinking severely damages the legitimacy of American democracy.”
“With few exceptions, most voters are preoccupied with more immediate, pocketbook issues than with abstract concerns about the functioning of our institutions,” Rhodes says. “This is a big challenge for democracy – for the most part, the health of democracy is just not at the forefront of people’s concerns. People don’t generally think too much about democracy... until it’s gone.”
Biden’s Impeachment May Still be on the Table
The latest poll also found an increase in the percentage of respondents who believe that President Biden should and will be impeached by the House of Representatives, if Republicans regain control of the chamber following the midterm elections. Nearly half (47%) now think that the president will be impeached, up from 44% in May, while 38% say that he should face impeachment, a four-point increase from May.
“If history is any guide, the Democratic Party is likely to lose seats and control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the aftermath of the 2022 midterm election,” Nteta says. “With prominent Republicans already signaling an increase in oversight of the Biden Administration if Republicans take control of the House, some House Republicans have also indicated that they are open to impeaching President Biden for a litany of perceived offenses. Close to half of the public believe these threats and expect that Biden will be impeached if and when the Republican Party takes control of the House of Representatives. What once was a tool used only sparingly by the U.S. Congress to reign in a president who has violated the Constitution, now in a highly polarized nation, impeachment has emerged as a weapon to be wielded to gain a partisan advantage and damage a president politically.”
This University of Massachusetts Amherst Poll of 1,000 respondents nationwide was conducted by YouGov Oct. 17-19. YouGov interviewed 1,065 total respondents who were then matched down to a sample of 1,000 to produce the final dataset. The respondents were matched to a sampling frame on gender, age, race and education. The frame was constructed by stratified sampling from the full 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) one-year sample with selection within strata by weighted sampling with replacement, using the person weights on the public use file.
The matched cases were weighted to the sampling frame using propensity scores. The matched cases and the frame were combined and a logistic regression was estimated for inclusion in the frame. The propensity score function included age, gender, race/ethnicity, years of education and region. The propensity scores were grouped into deciles of the estimated propensity score in the frame and post-stratified according to these deciles.
The weights were then post-stratified on 2016 and 2020 Presidential vote choice, and a four-way stratification of gender, age (4-categories), race (4-categories) and education (4-categories) to produce the final weight.
The margin of error within this poll is 3.6%.
Topline results and crosstabs for the poll can be found at www.umass.edu/poll