PRINCETON, NJ -- Republican and Democratic voters see the economy, jobs, and fixing the federal government as important to their congressional vote this year, but prioritize other issues quite differently. Republicans and Republican leaners rate the situation with Islamic militants and the deficit in their top five issues. For Democrats and Democratic leaners, the top five issues include equal pay for women and the way income and wealth are distributed in the U.S.
This update is based on Gallup's Sept. 25-30 survey, which asked U.S. voters to rate the importance of each item in a series of 13 issues to their vote for Congress this year.
Much election campaigning focuses on targeting partisan groups, based largely on the need to get known Democratic or Republican voters to the polls in the typically lower-turnout midterm elections. Analyzing which issues are important to each of these two groups thus becomes particularly vital.
Clearly, the two issues that top the overall list -- the economy and the availability of good jobs -- are relevant for Republicans and Democrats, who assign similar importance to each. This economic focus on the part of voters mirrors the responses to Gallup's open-ended "most important problem" question asked each month, which shows that economic concerns usually rank near the top of the list.
Once beyond the economy and the way the federal government is working, the two partisan groups rate other issues quite differently. Two of the top five issues for Republicans -- the federal budget deficit and the Islamic militant situation -- are given much lower importance by Democrats, with gaps of 19 and 13 percentage points between the two groups, respectively. Two of Democrats' top five issues -- equal pay for women and the way income and wealth are distributed in the U.S. -- are much less important for Republicans, with gaps of 29 points on equal pay and 21 points on income distribution.
More broadly, in addition to equal pay for women and income and wealth inequality, the issues of climate change and abortion and access to contraception are relatively much more important to Democrats than to Republicans. And, in addition to the deficit, taxes, and the situation with the Islamic militants, immigration is significantly more important to Republicans.
Economy, Fixing Government, Islamic Militants Most Important Overall
When all voters' attitudes are combined, the highest levels of importance are assigned to the economy and jobs, the way in which the federal government is working, the Islamic militant situation, and equal pay for women. The least important issues to voters are climate change and abortion and access to contraception, which appear near the bottom of the list for both political groups -- although on absolute terms each are rated as much more important by Democrats than by Republicans. The overall rankings are on Page 2.
No candidate for office in this year's midterm elections will go wrong in emphasizing what he or she would do to fix the economy and create more jobs in the U.S. These are the top issues for all voters, and also are rated highest in importance among both Republicans and Democrats. Gallup's previous assessments of issue priority have also shown that the economy is nearly always toward the top of the list, and economic concerns in general are generally always the top concern of voters when they are asked to name the most important problems facing the nation.
Focusing on the way the federal government is working, or not working, also would appear to be a solid and fruitful focus for candidates, given that it ranks high among all voters, including among Republicans and Democrats.
Beyond these issues, however, candidates hoping to activate interest and turnout among Democrats would do well to focus on inequality-related issues, including unequal pay for women. Candidates looking to increase turnout among Republicans would do better to focus on the Islamic militant situation in Iraq and Syria, the deficit, and on taxes and immigration.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 25-30, 2014, with a random sample of 1,252 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of registered voters, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of registered voters includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.