Why high inflation doesn’t seem to be hurting Democrats

Democrats, who hold slim majorities in the US House and Senate, have reversed what was a 3-point average lead for Republicans earlier this year on the generic congressional ballot to a 1-point average advantage for the party in power.

But as we’ll discuss first in our look at the week of politics that was, Americans are not as worried about the state of the economy as Republicans perhaps wish they were.

You look at almost any recent poll that asks Americans about their most important issue, and a plurality says it’s either the economy or inflation. For example, a Fox News poll out last week showed that more voters were concerned about inflation than about any other issue.

An examination of historical data reveals, however, that the percentage of Americans who currently say that economic issues represent the most important problem is about average for elections since 1988.

Every month, Gallup publishes data on what Americans say is the most important problem facing the country. It’s an open-ended question (meaning respondents can say anything they want), and they’re allowed to give more than one answer.

In August, 37% of adults said that an economic problem was most important. No single non-economic issue came close to topping that. “The government/Poor leadership” category was closest at 20%. Since March, somewhere between 35% and 40% of Americans have named some type of economic issue (e.g., inflation) as the top problem.

Of course, I was brought up under the belief that elections are about “the economy stupid.” So I wanted to see how this year’s findings compare with Americans’ views ahead of earlier elections. I had Gallup pull for me the closest data to Election Day for every election they could. They gave me midterm- and presidential-year data for their poll going back to 1988.

What amazed me was that, on average, 39% said an economic problem was the most important. That is, the economy is no more an issue this year than it has been in other years since 1988, despite how high inflation currently is.

What the current polling shows is not what we saw in 2008, 2010 or 2012, when 68% or more of Americans named an economic problem as the top one. And although Gallup didn’t provide me the data, polling before the 1982 midterms showed that more than 70% of Americans picked an economic problem as their top issue. 1982 is an important year from a historical perspective because it’s the last time inflation rates were anywhere near as high as they are now.

Indeed, the Gallup data from this year found that a collective 66% of Americans said the top problem was a non-economic one. Even if no issue individually came close to the economy, in total non-economic issues far eclipsed economic concerns.

If this election were solely about the economy, the GOP would be crushing it. A CNN/SSRS poll from the summer showed Republicans were winning by over 30 points on the generic ballot among voters who said they wanted candidates for Congress to speak most about the economy or inflation. But the Gallup polling data shows that this year’s election, in the voters’ minds, is not solely about the state of the economy.

Democrats, in the CNN poll, held a more-than-30-point advantage among those who picked something other than the economy as what they wanted candidates for Congress to speak about most.

That’s good news for Democrats.

It’s possible that economic concerns will rise in the final weeks before Election Day. With each passing day, though, an election a lot of us thought would be mostly about the economy seems like it will be about a lot more.

Americans want same-sex marriage legal federally

One big reason the 2022 election looks to be about something other than the economy is the US Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. That marked a turning point in the national political environment (in favor of Democrats).
The elimination of federal abortion rights also spurred a movement to codify same-same marriage into federal law — in large part because of wording in a concurring opinion by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who called explicitly for revisiting the court’s 2015 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

Make no mistake: Reversing that 2015 decision would be extremely unpopular with the American public. On the other hand, recent efforts by Congress to pass legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage federally are quite popular.

A Quinnipiac University poll conducted at the end of August found that 71% of Americans supported the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. This included nearly half (45%) of Republican voters, 77% of independents and 89% of Democrats.
Senate to punt on same-sex marriage vote until after midterms as GOP asks for more time
For some perspective, more Americans backed the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling than were in favor of Roe v. Wade before it was overturned. (That percentage was generally in the mid-60s.)
Opinions on same-sex marriage in the US have dramatically changed in the past 26 years. In 1996, 27% of Americans thought same-sex marriages should be valid in the country. Gallup found that percentage to be 71% earlier this year.
Of course, just because you want something legal doesn’t mean you want it to be codified into federal law. There are many Americans who are against abortion but don’t support a federal ban.

Polls show, however, that a majority of Americans do want Congress to codify same-sex marriage federally. My average of polls shows that somewhere around 55% of Americans do, with about 30% opposed.

That would explain why Congress seems willing to do exactly that. A bill that would legalize same-sex marriage has already passed the House. The Senate has delayed taking a vote over same-sex marriage legislation until after the midterms, though passage there seems likely too.

It would mark quite the turnaround from the mid-1990s when Congress passed the so-called Defense of Marriage Act that, for federal purposes, defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and allowed states not to recognize same-sex marriages granted by other states.

For your brief encounters: Indiana Jones is coming back

Google searches for Indiana Jones hit a nearly four-year high last week with the first preview of the fifth installment of the “Indiana Jones” franchise coming out.
As I noted on air, the franchise is unique in that it has spanned decades and is a top performer, both in terms of the box office and in critical acclaim.
Perhaps my favorite fact about Indiana Jones, though, comes from a poll. A few years ago, a CBS News/Vanity Fair survey asked Americans which film character they would want to be if they could live in a movie for a day.

The top choice was Indiana Jones at 25%. He beat out Ferris Bueller at 14%, Carrie Bradshaw (from “Sex in the City”) at 12% and Don Corleone (from “The Godfather”) at 11%.

My only question is what type of person would admit to wanting to be a mobster for a day?

Leftover data

Queen Elizabeth II historic polling feat: Gallup recalls that the late monarch appeared on its most admired woman list a record 52 times from 1948 to 2020. No one else was on the list more than 34 times (Margaret Thatcher).
Most Americans don’t bet on sports: As more states legalize sports gambling, the Pew Research Center finds that just 19% of Americans have bet on sports in the past year. The most likely way to do so was privately among friends and family (15%).
Majority of Americans may not be Christian by 2070: Pew also estimates, based on current trends, that less than 50% of Americans will identify as Christian by 2070. As of 2020, 64% of all Americans (adults and children) were estimated to be Christian.

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