Disconnected – Candidate Message vs. Voter Priorities

A new poll from America’s New Majority Project conducted by McLaughlin & Associates reveals a disconnect between the issues voters heard candidates talk about and what they want a new Congress to focus on.

  • Independents had a bigger disconnect with Republican candidate priorities than Democrats.

WHY IT MATTERS – Republicans performed worse than expected on Tuesday, November 8, largely due to underperforming among Independents compared to minority parties in previous midterms.

WOULD VS. SHOULD – Voters were presented with a different list of agenda items from Republicans and Democrats.

From those lists, voters were asked what they thought Republicans and Democrats WOULD do if they won a majority in Congress based on what they heard from candidates, and in a separate question, what they SHOULD do.

  • Large differences between the two questions can reveal what issues voters thought received too little and too much attention.  

MISSING FROM REPUBLICANS – The results suggest that Republicans missed an opportunity to win over Independents by focusing on returning manufacturing to the United States, fixing healthcare, and cutting spending to combat inflation. All three areas ranked high in priority for Independents but in the middle or bottom in their expectations from Republicans.

  • One area Republicans DID get their message across was in increasing domestic oil and gas drilling, which ranked high and tracked closely for both issue expectations and preference among Independents.  

MISSING FROM DEMOCRATS – Similarly, Democrats missed an opportunity with Independents and even Republicans to highlight plans to expand Medicare benefits.

  • On the flip side, Independents ranked spending more on green energy projects as the second most likely thing Democrats WOULD do with control of Congress but ranked it near the bottom of what they SHOULD do.

TURNING OUT THE BASE – Sometimes highlighting certain issues is essential in motivating the party base. Attention paid by Democratic candidates to abortion and Republican candidates to border security did not match the priority level Independents assigned to the two issues in the poll, but closely matched what their own party wanted.

  • The potential for abortion bans due to the Dobbs decision loomed large in the election and is credited for turning out Democrats and keeping Independents from swinging to Republicans.

BOTTOM LINE – Election messaging is about making choices with limited resources. Republicans had several health care and manufacturing ideas in their Commitment to America but didn’t focus on the issues in their advertising or candidate time.