Violence weighed on voters' minds
Despite all the misread tea leaves by pollsters ahead of the Nov. 8 election, one pre-election poll offered signals about the influences affecting the choices of Republicans and Democrats as well as the ever-important independents who now dominate national election results. Americans headed into the election deeply concerned about rising political violence and feared an upswing in the months following last week's vote.
In spite of eye-popping spectacles of right-wing violence — including the Oct. 24 hammer attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband and the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection — only a slight plurality of respondents in a Nov. 2 Washington Post-ABC News poll believed Republicans were solely responsible for the current climate. Most respondents said that both parties are to blame.
Asked if political tensions have reached the point that there’s an increased risk of violence, a whopping 88% said they were very or somewhat concerned. Republicans were blamed by 31% or respondents versus 25% who blamed Democrats, while 32% blamed both parties equally.
Nevertheless, Republicans joking about the Pelosi attack and the threat of a militant response to a GOP loss last Tuesday may have helped drive independents into the Democratic camp and prevent a Republican sweep. What’s absolutely clear is that 2020 rage and threats of violence did not sell with voters in 2022.
More than half of respondents in the Nov. 2 poll said they were only somewhat or not at all interested in last Tuesday’s election, but overwhelming majorities were attuned to violence.
Asked which party does a better job with the major issues of the day, Democrats held an edge on addressing abortion and climate change, but Republicans heavily dominated regarding the economy and crime. As for addressing threats to democracy, registered voters gave Democrats only a 4 percentage-point preference over Republicans — 47% to 43%. That result might help explain why the Capitol insurrection could unfold live on television and dominate the news through months of investigations and congressional hearings, yet voters still didn’t massively punish Republican candidates for it on Tuesday.
It appears that public attention to the insurrection and threats to democracy has waned considerably while the more immediate issues of crime and the economy weighed more heavily on voters’ minds. The Capitol Hill violence may have wound up being overshadowed by inflation and the fear of violent crime in voters’ everyday lives.
And no matter how much the pandemic and Russian invasion of Ukraine have sent worldwide inflation soaring, voters still tend to blame the party in power when things aren’t working right.
Among respondents, 39% identified as independents, while 27% sided each with the Republican and Democratic parties. Ultimately, it appears, independents chose not to punish Democrats as much as other pre-election polls indicated they would.
The party that stops trying to play to the base with messages of rage and instead focuses on winning over independents is the party most likely to prevail in 2024.
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