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US voters focused on economy

By HENG WEILI in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-11-03 10:33

People walk through downtown after the city received overnight snow on November 2, 2022 in Anchorage, Alaska. [Photo/Agencies]

Polls taken before next week’s US midterm elections invariably show that inflation and the economy are the top concerns of voters.

With the consumer price index hovering around 40-year highs for most of the year, inflation’s bite has been felt by Americans across the economic spectrum.

Sixty-four percent of respondents to a poll published Tuesday by The Wall Street Journal said that inflation is rising and straining their finances, including 36 percent who described the impact as major.

Both numbers were the highest in the Journal’s polling this year. Only 27 percent of respondents considered the economy excellent or good, down from 35 percent in August.

The poll gave Republicans a two-point lead generically in the Nov 8 elections in which all 435 House seats, 35 US Senate seats and 36 governor’s offices are in play.

“The focus on the economic stuff, particularly inflation, is helpful to the GOP headed into the final stretch,” said Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio, who conducted the Journal survey with Democratic pollster John Anzalone.

Only 19 percent said the economy was headed in the right direction, down 11 percentage points from August, while 71 percent said it is on the wrong track, the Journal poll found.

Only 27 percent said President Joe Biden’s economic leadership has had a positive impact on the economy, and 54 percent said it has had a negative impact.

When it comes to younger voters, only 10 percent of American adults under 40 strongly approved of Biden’s job performance in a new online poll, CNBC reported Tuesday. The number dropped to 7 percent for Americans between the ages of 18-26.

One quarter of respondents under 40 strongly disapproved of the president’s performance.

The results were from a survey by the University of Chicago’s Gen Forward Survey Project. The online poll queried 2,294 Americans between the ages of 18 and 40.

Economic growth, income inequality, and the environment and climate change tied for second at 6 percent.

When asked what the most important issue is in the midterms, 25 percent said inflation, and 11 percent said abortion and reproductive rights.

“Inflation is the most salient issue among young adults — specifically inflation, rather than general economic concerns,” Kumar Ramanathan, a Gen Forward research fellow, told CNBC. “More young adults say inflation makes them more likely to support Republicans than Democrats, but the plurality, about a third, say it won’t impact their vote.”

Almost 90 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that “inflation is having an impact on me and/or my family”.

In a CNN poll released Wednesday, the economy and inflation made up the top issue for likely voters, with 51 percent citing both as the key issue in their vote for Congress.

Abortion, the second-ranking issue, became more prominent after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe vs Wade — the 1973 ruling that guaranteed a federal right to abortion — in June. It was the top concern for 15 percent of likely voters in the CNN poll.

Other issues were chosen by less than 10 percent of likely voters each, including voting rights and election integrity (9 percent); gun policy (7 percent); immigration (6 percent); climate change (4 percent); and crime (3 percent).

Republican and independent likely voters were focused on the economy, with 71 percent of Republicans and 53 percent of independents calling it the top issue. Democratic voters were more divided, with the economy and abortion the top issue for near-equal numbers — 29 percent said abortion, 27 percent the economy and inflation.

In an Oct 30 ABC News/Ipsos poll, 50 percent of registered voters said either the economy (28 percent) or inflation (22 percent) was their most important issue for the election. Another 2 percent said gasoline prices.

The third issue for registered voters was abortion (16 percent).

For Democrats, abortion is the most important issue (29 percent), basically tied with the number who say inflation or the economy (28 percent together; 15 percent say inflation; 13 percent say the economy), the poll found.

Most Republican voters prioritized economic issues (73 percent cite one of those two issues, including 45 percent for the economy and 28 percent for inflation). Half of independent registered voters (50 percent) named the economy or inflation as their most important issue.

Adding to the pressure on inflation, which has hovered around the 8-9 percent range this year, is a strong job market. US job openings rose unexpectedly in September, suggesting that the labor market is not cooling as fast as the Federal Reserve hoped.

That situation has vexed the Fed, which has tried to control inflation with a flurry of interest rate hikes.

On Wednesday, the Fed raised its key short-term rate by 75 basis points to 3.75-4 percent, its highest level in 15 years. It was the central bank’s sixth rate hike this year — the last four being three-quarter-point increases.

The Fed, however, hinted that the pace of increases could be tempered. The next Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting is in December.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday that smaller increases “may come as soon as the next meeting or the one after that. No decision has been made. It is likely we will have a discussion about this at the next meeting.”

The new language in the FOMC’s latest policy statement took note of the impact that the rapid pace of rate hikes has unleashed and shows a desire to home in on a level for the federal funds rate “sufficiently restrictive to return inflation to 2 percent over time”.

Employers posted 10.7 million job vacancies in September, up from 10.3 million in August, the Labor Department said Tuesday. Economists had expected the number of job openings to drop below 10 million for the first time since June 2021.

“Job openings still vastly outnumber unemployed workers, the quits rate remains elevated, and layoffs are still well below pre-pandemic levels,” said Nick Bunker, head of economic research at the Indeed Hiring Lab.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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