New polling shows Republicans hold an edge over Democrats just over a week before midterm elections that will decide control of the US legislative branch, with voters fixated on high inflation and the risk of recession.
Republicans appear poised to wrest control of the House of Representatives, a model released by CBS News on Sunday indicated, as the minority party has recaptured leads in certain races days before Americans cast their ballots on November 8. The expected 15-seat gain could narrow should younger voters turn out in higher numbers than the model assumes.
Democrats have lost momentum in recent weeks as data has suggested the worst inflation problem in decades is not improving, and in some cases at risk of getting worse, as price pressures become more deeply embedded in the economy. That has fanned fears of an impending recession, given the aggressive steps required of the Federal Reserve to root it out.
The US central bank is in the midst of one of its most forceful attempts to slow down the economy in decades, with top officials warning of “some pain” to come, chiefly higher unemployment.
Separate polling from ABC News and Ipsos released on Sunday show that the economy and inflation are considered the two most important issues heading into the midterms for roughly half of Americans, edging out abortion rights and gun violence.
Over the summer, Democrats’ odds of holding on to control of the legislative branch looked better, fuelled by outrage over the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs Wade in a move that has severely restricted access to the procedure.
Many Democratic candidates had focused their midterms campaigns on enshrining the right to an abortion into law. But access to abortion, while galvanizing for some, is less likely to be the primary motivation for one in five Americans, who say the issue makes no difference at all in their voting decision, according to ABC. That indifference is even higher among independents.
Speaking to ABC News on Sunday, Rick Scott, chair of the national Republican senatorial committee, expressed optimism about the GOP’s chances of clinching the upper legislative chamber as well and forecasted races in Georgia, Nevada, Arizona and New Hampshire to tip their way.
“I think the Democrats are going to get a rude awakening on November 8 that high inflation, high crime, open border [are] not what the American public wants,” he said.
The Biden administration has stepped up its messaging about what the president has done to tackle high inflation as the election has neared, highlighting legislative victories earlier this year, including a climate, tax and healthcare bill.
“We’re reducing the burden on working and middle-class families by bringing down the costs of everyday things — prescription drugs, health care premiums, and energy bills,” president Biden said on Twitter on Sunday. “That’s real breathing room for folks who need it most.”
In a sign that the message is not getting through, however, the CBS poll showed that eight in 10 likely voters feel things in the country are “out of control”.
When asked by CBS whether a strong economy or a functioning democracy was a bigger concern, those supporting Republicans overwhelmingly said the former, while Democrat voters leaned towards the latter.
In a bid to galvanise support for Democrats, former president Barack Obama hit the campaign trail this weekend, warning that the “basic foundation of the democracy is at risk”.