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Washington poll analysis: Inflation, abortion top voters’ minds as election nears

An election ballot is placed in a ballot box outside of the Spokane Public Library on Nov. 7, 2016, in downtown Spokane.  (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)
An election ballot is placed in a ballot box outside of the Spokane Public Library on Nov. 7, 2016, in downtown Spokane. (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)
By Jim Camden For The Spokesman-Review

As the 2022 midterm elections approach, some voters are most concerned about inflation, others about abortion, a new poll for The Spokesman-Review and KHQ-TV suggests.

They overwhelmingly support continued financial and military aid to Ukraine as that nation tries to defend itself against a Russian invasion.

They are about evenly split on whether they support President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive some level of student loan debt.

They are divided on the best way to solve homelessness, although a plurality chose the option of “zero tolerance policy for camping in public places.”

And as they look ahead to 2024, a majority of voters said they’d like to see two candidates other than the ones they had in 2020, Biden and former President Donald Trump.

The poll provides a snapshot of voters opinions less than two weeks ahead of a key election, although like other such surveys, it doesn’t predict the outcome of any of the races.

The poll of 506 likely Washington voters indicates Republicans and independents are far more likely to say their top concern is inflation, while Democrats were more likely to say abortion. The automated poll, conducted last Wednesday and Thursday by Triton Polling and Research, has a margin of error of 4.4%.

Three of five Republicans and two of five independents said inflation was their most important issue in the upcoming election. Less than one in 10 Republicans and about one in six independents put abortion at the top of their list.

That compared to two of five Democrats who listed abortion as their top issue and one in eight who said it was inflation.

Inflation can mean different things to different people – high gasoline prices, larger grocery bills, a hike in rent, a job with wages that aren’t keeping up, or all of the above – but the poll doesn’t drill down on the concerns.

The telephone survey was conducted with recorded questions to which respondents pressed a number to select specific answers, so there was no way for respondents to expand on their answers.

It does, however, suggest that overall inflation is slightly more important than abortion for the voters surveyed as they decide how to vote in the U.S. Senate race this year between incumbent Democrat Patty Murray and Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley.

Women were more evenly divided between those two issues, with about three in 10 saying abortion was their most important issue and slightly more than one in four saying it was inflation. Men were much more likely to say they were worried about the economy, with about two out of five listing inflation as their top issue and about one in six listing abortion.

A concern about abortion could be top issue for people who support or oppose that procedure. While the survey didn’t ask people about their stand on the issue, it did ask what action they thought Congress should take in the wake of last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

On that point, a clear majority of 53% said they thought Congress “should restore a woman’s right to abortion nationwide.” Slightly more than a third said Congress “should stay out of it” and let the states make their own decisions on possible limits, while less than one in 10 favored a law that placed nationwide restrictions on the procedure.

But the partisan divide was sharp on what Congress should do. Nine out of 10 Democrats said Congress should restore the right to an abortion, while two-thirds of Republicans said it should let the states decide. Independents were about evenly split, with 45% saying Congress should restore a nationwide right and 48% saying it should let the states decide.

Democrats and Republicans were also far apart on their opinion on the best solution to combating homelessness around the state. More than half of Republicans said the best solution would be a “zero tolerance policy for camping in public places.” Democrats were more split on solutions, with about a third saying the best solution was government funding for rehabilitation and work programs, and 30% saying it was “low-cost housing.” Only 14% of Democrats favored no tolerance for camping in public places as the best option.

Among independents, a zero-tolerance policy had a plurality of about two out of four surveyed, but the second-highest option chosen, at roughly one in four, was something other than the three suggested.

Voters were more than three times as likely to say they support American aid to Ukraine in its fight against Russia as those who said they oppose it. Half of those surveyed said they “strongly support” providing financial and military aid to the country, and another 22% said they “somewhat support” it. That’s compared to 14% who said they “strongly oppose” it and 8.5% percent who “somewhat oppose” it.

Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents all offered at least some support for American aid to Ukraine, although nearly one in four Republicans said they “strongly oppose” it.

On a recently announced federal program to forgive some student loan debt, however, the voters surveyed were split almost exactly in half. The program was “strongly opposed” by 42.3% of those surveyed and “somewhat opposed” by 6.2%; it was “strongly supported” by 30.1% and “somewhat supported” by 18.4%. About 3% weren’t sure, so that meant 48.5% had some level of support and 48.5% had some level of opposition.

On that proposal, the partisan divide was among clearest, with nearly seven out of eight Republicans saying they oppose the program and seven out of eight Democrats saying the support it. More than half of independents said they oppose the program and only about a third said they support it.

A majority of all voters surveyed said neither Biden nor Trump should be on the ballot in 2024, although not surprisingly there was also a sharp partisan divide on whether one of them should run again for president. Two-thirds of Democrats surveyed said they would either strongly or somewhat support Biden running for re-election while about one in five said they would oppose it. More than nine out of 10 Democrats said they’d strongly oppose another run by Trump.

Four of five Republicans surveyed said they’d support another run by Trump, and only about one in six said they’d oppose it. Nine out of 10 Republicans said they’d “strongly” oppose Biden if he ran for re-election and less than one in 10 would support it.

More than half of independents said they would oppose both men running for president in 2024, with only about a third offering some level of support for another run by either. When all the responses were added together, 51% said they would oppose another run by Biden and 64% would oppose another run by Trump.

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