With the midterm congressional elections still more than seven months away, registered voters are evenly divided between the two major parties in their election preferences. At the same time, Republican voters are more likely than Democratic voters to say it “really matters” which party gains control of Congress in this fall’s midterms.
At this early stage of the campaign, President Joe Biden is much more of a motivating factor for Republican than Democratic voters: 71% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters say they think of their vote as being “against” Biden; far fewer Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters (46%) view their vote as a vote “for” the president.
The new Pew Research Center survey of 10,441 U.S. adults, including 9,021 registered voters, conducted March 7-13, 2022, finds that most voters (63%) say which party wins control of Congress in this year’s elections “really matters,” similar to the share who said this in early 2018 (65%).
Today, in contrast with 2018, Republican registered voters (70%) are more likely than Democratic voters (60%) to say which party wins control of Congress this year really matters. Four years ago, there were only slight partisan differences on this measure (67% of Democrats and 65% of Republicans said it really mattered which party controlled Congress following the elections) and that remained the case throughout the 2018 campaign.
The new survey finds that equal shares of registered voters say, if the elections were held today, they would support the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate (43% each) in their district. Another 10% say they are not sure who they would support, while 4% would vote for other candidates.
Early in the 2018 midterm cycle, Democratic candidates had a double-digit edge over Republicans on the generic congressional ballot. Democrats went on to gain the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives that year.
As in previous midterms, voters are more likely to view their vote as an expression of opposition than support for the president. That is the case today: 36% say their midterm vote is against Biden, while 24% think of it as a vote for Biden; 38% say Biden is not much of a factor in their voting decision.
The partisan disparity in these views is wide: Nearly three times as many Republican voters think of their vote as being against Biden as say the president is not much of a factor in their vote (71% vs. 26%); by contrast, Democratic voters are about equally likely to say Biden is not much of a factor (47%) as to say their midterm vote will be “for” him (46%).
Amid the continuing conflicts over the 2020 election, a majority of Americans say they are very (23%) or somewhat confident (40%) that the midterm elections will be conducted fairly and accurately. However, there are sizable partisan differences in confidence: While 76% of Democrats say they are confident the fall elections will be conducted fairly and accurately (32% are very confident), only about half of Republicans (47%) say the same (12% say they are very confident).
Seven-in-ten adults are also very or somewhat confident that all citizens who want to vote in the congressional elections will be able to do so. There are partisan differences in these views as well: Democrats are about 20 percentage points less likely than Republicans to express confidence that all citizens who want to vote will be able to do so (61% of Democrats vs. 83% of Republicans).
Top election issues for Republicans and Democrats
About eight-in-ten voters (78%) say the economy is very important to their vote this fall, making it the top issue out of 15 asked about in the survey. Republicans are particularly likely to say the economy is very important to their vote in the fall: 90% say this, compared with 68% of Democrats.
Roughly two-thirds of Republican voters say that immigration (68%), foreign policy (67%) and violent crime (67%) are very important to their vote, while nearly as many (62%) say this about the size and scope of government. Democratic voters are less likely than Republicans to say each of these is very important, though the gap is particularly pronounced on the issues of immigration (just 34% of Democrats say immigration is very important to their vote in the fall) and the size and scope of government (just 26% of Democrats say this is very important to their vote).
By comparison, health care is the top issue for Democratic voters in the fall, with 74% saying it is very important to their vote; just 44% of Republican voters say the same.
About two-thirds of Democratic voters point to voting policies (66%) and education (also 66%) as very important to their vote, modestly higher than the shares of GOP voters naming these issues as very important to their vote.
But the partisan gap over climate change is one of the largest in the survey: Democratic voters are 50 percentage points more likely than Republican voters to name it as an important issue in their vote (64% vs. 14%) and are 40 points more likely to say the same about issues around race and ethnicity (54% vs. 14%).
Just a third of voters say that the coronavirus outbreak will be a very important issue in their vote this fall, though Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to say this (46% vs. 19%).
Congressional vote preferences
Overall, voters are split on who they would vote for if the elections were held today: 43% say they would vote for the Republican candidate in their district, while an identical share say they would vote for the Democratic candidate; 4% say they would vote for another candidate and 10% say they are not sure.
There are wide differences in vote preference based on race and ethnicity, age and education.
About half of White voters (51%) say they would vote for the Republican candidate, while 37% would vote Democratic. By contrast, a large majority of Black voters (72%) say they would prefer the Democratic candidate, while 7% prefer the Republican candidate. Asian voters favor Democratic over Republican candidates by about two-to-one (59% vs. 31%); Hispanic voters also favor Democrats (50%) over Republicans (28%).
As in recent elections, older voters remain more supportive of Republican candidates than Democrats: Half of voters ages 65 and older say they would vote for a Republican if the elections were held today, while 41% say they would vote for a Democrat. By contrast, about half of voters under 30 say they would vote for a Democratic candidate if the elections were held today, while 29% say they would back the GOP candidate. Voters under 30 also are about twice as likely as voters 65 and older to be unsure about who they would vote for (13% vs. 7%).
Voters with college degrees, especially those with postgraduate degrees, are more supportive of Democrats than Republicans this fall, while Republicans hold an advantage among voters with some college or less education.