The Midterms And The Economy: Bad News For Democrats?

Republicans are winning with voters on the issues they say they care the most about.


A new Gallup poll presents some potentially bad news for Democrats headed into the 2014 midterms:

Nearly nine out of 10 voters say the economy will be “extremely” or “very” important to their vote for Congress in the midterm elections, a good sign for Republicans who have slight advantage over Democrats on the issue, a new Gallup poll shows.

Forty-eight percent of voters say they think Republicans in Congress would do a better job of dealing with the economy, while 43 percent favor Democrats. Eighty-nine percent of voters say the economy will be “extremely” or “very” important in their midterm vote for Congress.

According to the poll, the next four issues considered important by voters are the budget deficit, taxes, health care reform, and income inequality. Democrats have the upper edge with voters when it comes to health care and income inequality, but Republicans have the advantage on taxes and the deficit. This isn’t entirely surprising, of course. Exit polls for pretty much every Presidential and midterm election going back decades shows that, outside of odd years in which a foreign policy issue of some sort has dominated the headlines, the issue on the top of voters minds when they enter the voting booth is the economy and the myriad of issues related to it such as taxes and the budget deficit. The party deemed by voters to have better ideas on that issue is the one that ends up with the polling advantage heading into the election and, more often than not, the one that ends up winning the election. If that holds up as we head toward November, then 2014 could ends up being a problematic year for Democrats.

Additionally, as this chart shows, the issues where Republicans have the advantage are considered more important by voters at this time than the issues on which Democrats the advantage:

Gallup Chart


Perhaps most significantly, the issues that many, myself included, have stated numerous times are trouble spots for Republicans — immigration, marriage equality, and global warming — are very far down the list when it comes to issues that voters are saying will be important to them when they decide who they’re going to vote for in November. This suggests a few things. First of all, poll results like this make it less likely that Republicans in Congress will feel compelled to act on immigration reform before the midterm elections. Second, it seems unlikely that Democrats will be successful in using issues such as these as “wedge issues” against Republicans in close races for the House or Senate. Finally, poll results like this tend to make the arguments of those who argue that the GOP has to change its position these issues weaker, at least in the short term. As has almost always been the case in national elections, it is the economy that’s going to drive the narrative in 2014, and if this poll is to be believed then that poses a potential problem for Democratic candidates.

FILED UNDER: 2014 Election, Congress, Deficit and Debt, Economics and Business, Healthcare Policy, Public Opinion Polls, Taxes, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. C. Clavin says:
  2. stonetools says:

    Its unbelievable in that the Republicans have done everything possible to sabotage economic recovery since 2009, and somehow they get away with that, despite the fact that they drove the economy into the ditch in the first place!
    The Democrats have done just a catastrophic job of messaging about the economy, and I have to place the failure squarely on the Obama Administration, apart from the massive ongoing propaganda campaign by the right wing BS machine.
    So far as I can tell, the Administration apparently expected the public to understand and accept Keynesian economics without any effort on their part to explain what was happening. Well, they were wrong.
    AT this point, the good thing is that the Republicans have run out of ways to sabotage the economy, and the economy has just had its first really good month. The Democrats can hope the economy can have a good run before November. If that happens, they ‘ll get credit.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    After the Rs crashed the economy and then spent five years blocking every effort to do anything about it, the electorate feel 48 to 43 that Rs are better for the economy. So McConnell et al’s plan of obstructing everything and blaming Obama is working. It’s enough to make you weep for the future of democracy.

  4. Shirt says:


    But be aware if there is some sort of infrastructure failure, the GOP will get the credit.

  5. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    Wasn’t “the economy” supposed to be “the” deciding factor in 2012? The President was awfully vulnerable and faced Mr. Business Fixit, and STILL the GOP came up five million votes short.

    All depends on who shows up in 2014, both in terms of candidates and voters. 2016 writes itself.

  6. becca says:

    Gallup’s polling accuracy has been dismal during Obama’s presidency. They were the worst of the worst in ’12 and favored the GOP more than Rasmussen, for cripe’s sake.

    Anyway, one poll is one poll. Show me an aggregate of ’em.

    Did Nate Silver teach you nothing?

  7. al-Ameda says:

    Gallup’s polling has, in recent years, been anomalous, an outlier.

    I’m not surprised that about half of Americans look back fondly to late 2008 and early 2009 when the economy was shedding jobs at a rate of over 700,000 per month, and major banks had no capital resources with which to provide capital to American businesses and homeowners.

    How Republicans can spin that to be “the good old days” is a tribute to the fact the their base is comprised of very low information voters.

  8. Rick DeMent says:

    Why are people upset about taxes? Federal taxes are lower now then at anytime in my life. How is it possible that Taxes are even an issue?

  9. Anonne says:

    @Rick DeMent:
    Because the Republicans drive the media, the people are obsessed with taxes and are taught that taxation is theft, and they’re paying too much, yadda yadda incessantly.

    Look at the idiots still concerned about the deficit, which has actually fallen TOO FAST. I bet they couldn’t even tell you what the deficit is.

  10. rudderpedals says:

    @Rick DeMent: I was thinking the same thing about the deficit (#2) which is also plummeting like a rock.