To really understand an election, you have to understand the motivations — and the lives — of the Americans voting in it. But too often our politics misses the point, and just describes people as demographic groups or party labels. We can do better.
We’ve got the data for it: tens of thousands of interviews in our CBS News polling over the year where people have expressed themselves and how they see politics.
Here’s what we learned from it all: the groups who are the influencers of 2022, whose ideas and choices are steering the conversation now and likely deciding the midterms next month.
Chances are you know someone like them — or are even a member of these groups yourself. And that’s the point.
We’ll follow them all the way through election night itself with our surveys, to see how they vote and if they vote, which is often more critical in these polarized times. Because if every election is a story about us, and who we are as a nation, then we’ll certainly need to see the ending they write.
The Pressured Parents
Their story: Post-pandemic stress over their finances…and their kids.
It’s been a long few years for everyone. The pandemic took a massive toll on so many. All through it we interviewed parents who worked to keep families safe; navigating quarantines, juggling working and schooling from home, and telling us it brought them stress. And then as that eased, inflation hit, piling financial stress on top. Today, this group of parents reflects all that, saying the pandemic negatively impacted kids, or they are facing a tough financial situation now.
These parents collectively show a mix of ideas in politics: they are impacted by rising inflation and gas prices, the economy is important in their vote, concerned about paying for things, and they think President Biden could be doing more. But relief funds did help many of them, and they are more apt to think Republicans are for the wealthy. Is there a conflict there, and which party might win out? They are 13% of likely voters and their current vote is a bit more Republican, with 47% Republican and 40% Democratic.
The “MAGA” Republicans with big influence on the party, and its fortunes
These voters told us they consider themselves “part of the MAGA movement,” along with being Republicans, and that makes them a potent force inside today’s GOP. You can’t understand this election without understanding them. On the issues, they’ve told us they don’t believe Biden won in 2020; want the Republican party and its candidates to support the former President. Notably, in their approach to politics, they’re more likely than other Republicans to call Democrats “enemies,” not just opponents.
The Republicans need their turnout in order to win, even as the former president polls as a net-negative factor and those views about 2020 aren’t popular beyond the base. Their impact is a turnout one, not a vote choice one. They’re 20% of voters and 97% are voting Republican. Will they show up without Donald Trump on the ballot? Or if you start to see Republican candidates moderate their stances, do any stay home?
Restoring Roe Voters
Women prioritizing abortion rights — and voting on them
We know Roe’s reversal changed this election — the question is by how much? This group, in particular, will help tell the tale. While many people call the issue important, these women profile the most like single-issue, abortion rights voters. They are: 24% of voters, women who say abortion is very important, want it to remain legal and they say that a candidate must agree in order to earn their vote.
Their motivation closed the gap this fall in what might otherwise have been a larger GOP lead, as they’re voting strongly Democratic at 81% today. But can Democrats grow their ranks? Much of their campaign seems to be banking on it. Of late, in the face of worse economic news, the Democrats have faced headwinds on this. So will they be enough to keep the races close or tip some?
The Young and Restless:
A turnout story for the ages
Many young people today tell us they feel older generations had things easier than they do. Many feel shut out from big parts of the economy. Their view of the world is driven in part by their generation’s diversity, which studies show is the most diverse in U.S. history. They are under 30 and don’t have kids. But they’re also less likely to vote, with under half saying they definitely will, and so comprising now 6% of likely voters. Their vote now is: 60% Democrat to 26% Republican. They use social media more and do pay attention to politics, though not quite as much as others.
They mostly — but not overwhelmingly — vote Democratic when they do, so Democrats need them to have a better chance overall. Yet, this past year, they were among the first to drop in approval for Mr. Biden, disappointed by the economy. Will social issues and rights issues motivate them instead?