Midterm voters weigh economy, abortion to decide control of Congress

Midterm voters weigh economy, abortion to decide control of Congress

WASHINGTON — Polls have closed in Georgia and Virginia, the first in Tuesday’s 2022 midterm elections, as the nation anxiously waits for results that will decide which party controls Congress.

At a moment of intense ideological division, voters will set the course of the nation for the next two years, deciding whether President Joe Biden should be able to continue his agenda or face near-certain obstruction and possible impeachment.

Republicans are hoping to ride unhappiness about the economy to control the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. Democrats have banked on anger about abortion to beat back historic trends.

The NBC News exit poll is offering a first look at what drove voters to the polls Tuesday.

Inflation and abortion were the top issues on voters’ minds, while a broad majority (70%) said they believe democracy is “threatened.”


But there’s a sharp partisan split about the perceived threat. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans (66%) said they do not believe that Biden legitimately won the 2020 election, while more than a quarter (29%) are not confident that elections are being conducted fairly and accurately in their state. 

The overall mood of the electorate was sour, with 39% saying they are “dissatisfied” about the way things are going in the U.S., while 34% said they were “angry.” Just 5% said they were enthusiastic.

Three-quarters of Americans also said the economy was “not good” or “poor,” and almost half said their personal finances are worse off than two year ago.

A slim majority of voters said the trusted Republicans more on most issues, except abortion, where Democrats had a ten percentage point advantage.

Most voters said they were disappointed or angry about the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. And 60% said abortion should be legal in most cases.

Biden is broadly unpopular, with just 36% saying his policies are helping the country. Almost half (46%) said they are hurting and 16% said they are not making a difference. 

The dissatisfaction was common even among groups that lean Democratic. Only about a third of Latinos and voters under 30 (34% each) said his policies are mostly helping the country.

The lack of enthusiasm in Biden’s base is reflected in the relatively small portion of voters who said they “strongly” approve of his job performance.

Just 19% of voters expressed strong approval for Biden, compared to the 31% former President Donald Trump enjoyed in the 2018 midterm, despite Republicans suffering major losses that year.

The NBC News Exit Poll findings are broadly consistent with what pre-election polls have shown for months in a political environment defined by deep partisan divisions and widespread concerns about the economy and democracy.

Early vote data and anecdotal reports suggest high interest and strong turnout from members of both parties, with Republicans expecting to benefit from the enthusiasm advantage typical for out-of-power parties during midterm elections.

Historically, the party that controls the White House almost always loses ground in Congress. Republicans need to net five seats to retake the House while they need to net only one to flip the Senate.

It may take days to know final results in some of the nation’s most high-profile and competitive Senate races.

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