It remains uncertain which party will control the Senate or the House of Representatives next year, with votes still being counted and key races too early to call. But it’s clear that the “red wave” wished for by Republicans did not materialize in 2022.
Voters were broadly discontented with the state of the nation, the economy and President Joe Biden, a national exit poll found – the sort of political environment that conventionally leads to a midterm backlash against the party in the White House. But other factors, including views on abortion and Biden’s predecessor, may have helped keep Democrats competitive.
Here are some of the factors that were on the minds of voters:
President Biden: Biden’s approval rating was underwater among the electorate, with only about 44% of voters approving, about 55% disapproving and roughly 45% saying they strongly disapproved. Voters were more likely to say Biden’s policies had hurt than helped the country and more likely to say their vote was meant to oppose the president than say it was in support of him.
The economy: A slim plurality of voters, about 31%, called inflation their top issue, and roughly 8 in 10 said inflation had been a hardship for them personally. By roughly a 12-point margin, voters said they trusted the GOP over the Democratic Party to handle inflation.
But the closeness of the election suggests it wasn’t solely a referendum on an unpopular president or a reaction to grim views of the economy.
Abortion rights: The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade brought abortion to center stage, with about 27% of voters calling it their top issue. About 6 in 10 voters felt negatively about the decision, with nearly 4 in 10 expressing anger. Democrats had a roughly 11-point edge over the GOP when it came to which party voters trusted to handle issues related to abortion.
Former President Donald Trump: Trump was on voters’ minds nearly as much as the incumbent. Roughly 28% of voters said they intended their vote to express opposition to him, only a few points lower than the roughly one-third who said they were expressing opposition to Biden.
Democrats win over Biden skeptics: The strength of individual candidates likely helped Democratic candidates win over some voters who were disenchanted with the Democratic president. In New Hampshire, for instance, Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan kept her seat by winning nearly all voters who approved of Biden, as well as roughly one-fifth of those who disapproved.
In Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race, the projected Democratic winner, Josh Shapiro, picked up roughly one-quarter of commonwealth voters who disapproved of Biden. In a number of races, Democratic candidates won outright among voters who somewhat disapproved of Biden.
What are exit polls?
CNN Exit Polls are a combination of in-person interviews with Election Day voters and in-person interviews, telephone and online polls measuring the views of early and absentee by-mail voters. They were conducted by Edison Research on behalf of the National Election Pool. Read more here.