It’s been more than twenty years since James Carville boiled voter priorities down to one memorable phrase — “the economy, stupid.” Today’s polling from Gallup and Politico show that the same lesson holds true for the 2014 midterms a generation later, and perhaps may be even more true today:
Twenty percent of Americans name unemployment or jobs as the most important problem facing the country in May, up from 14% who mentioned these issues in April. Dysfunctional government (19%) and the economy in general (17%) also rank among the top problems.
These three issues — jobs, economy, and government — have been at the top of the “most important problem” list since the beginning of the year. Mentions of government and politicians rose sharply to 33% in October amid the partial government shutdown, but have dipped back down.
Mentions of the environment as the most important problem have ticked up to 3% in May from an average of 1% over the past six months. The increase may be related to recent news coverage highlighting the negative effects of global warming and climate change on the environment.
I find it useful to post about these issues/priority polls as markers for just how effective election-year messaging proves to be. The White House and the Democratic orgs for the House and Senate have tried everything to change the basic thrust of the midterms from its traditional role of providing accountability to the party in power. For months, Democrats have been stoking hysteria on gender pay equity by pushing false statistics using a standard that shows that the White House itself discriminates against women, and by ramping up hysteria over climate change following the second deep winter in a row.
The results speak for themselves. Despite harping on pay equity and income inequality since the beginning of the year, the issue of the rich/poor gap hasn’t budged from its 3% rating as the most important issue in the US. As Gallup notes, the larger category of environment/pollution has gone from 1% to 3%, a change within the margin of error, and one that still leaves the category in a four-way tie for last place.
The messaging failure extends even to the target markets — the party base. Combined, jobs and the economy get 38% of Democratic respondents’ top priority. The environment gets 7%, and equity issues 6% — combined, about a third of what jobs and the economy gets. Three times as many Democrats put “dissatisfaction with government” as a top priority than those who prioritize the environment — and that’s not an issue category that favors the White House, needless to say. That’s actually higher than the 17% of Republicans who make that their top priority. Among independents, the issues hyped by the White House get 5% combined.
That’s not to say that those issues poll poorly among voters. The Politico poll gives a good indication on how well they do when surveyed in a vacuum. However, no one’s looking for solutions to these in the midterm elections, and the more that Democrats keep trying to make November about these issues, the more polling will look like Politico’s breakdown from earlier today.