Posted on July 13, 2022

Poll Shows Tight Race for Control of Congress as Class Divide Widens

Nate Cohn, New York Times, July 13, 2022

With President Biden’s approval rating mired in the 30s and with nearly 80 percent of voters saying the country is heading in the wrong direction, all the ingredients seem to be in place for a Republican sweep in the November midterm elections.

But Democrats and Republicans begin the campaign in a surprisingly close race for control of Congress, according to the first New York Times/Siena College survey of the cycle.


Overall among registered voters, 41 percent said they preferred Democrats to control Congress compared with 40 percent who preferred Republican control.

Among likely voters, Republicans led by one percentage point, 44 percent to 43 percent, reflecting the tendency for the party out of power to enjoy a turnout advantage in midterms.

The results suggest that the wave of mass shootings and the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade have at least temporarily insulated the Democrats from an otherwise hostile national political environment while energizing the party’s predominantly liberal activist base.

But the confluence of economic problems and resurgent cultural issues has helped turn the emerging class divide in the Democratic coalition into a chasm, as Republicans appear to be making new inroads among nonwhite and working-class voters — perhaps especially Hispanic voters — who remain more concerned about the economy and inflation than abortion rights and guns.

For the first time in a Times/Siena national survey, Democrats had a larger share of support among white college graduates than among nonwhite voters — a striking indication of the shifting balance of political energy in the Democratic coalition. As recently as the 2016 congressional elections, Democrats won more than 70 percent of nonwhite voters while losing among white college graduates.


Some of the hot-button social issues thought to work to the advantage of Republicans at the beginning of the cycle, like critical race theory, have faded from the spotlight. Only 4 percent of voters combined said education, crime or immigration was the most important issue facing the country.


The liberal backlash against conservative advances in the court appears to have helped Democrats most among white college graduates, who are relatively liberal and often insulated by their affluence from economic woes. Just 17 percent of white college-educated Biden voters said an economic issue was the most important one facing the country, less than for any other racial or educational group.

Over all, white college graduates preferred Democratic control of Congress, 57-36. Women propelled Democratic strength among the group, with white college-educated women backing Democrats, 64-30. Democrats barely led among white college-educated men, 46-45.


The fight for congressional control is very different among the often less affluent, nonwhite and moderate voters who say the economy or inflation is the biggest problem facing the country. They preferred Republican control of Congress, 62 percent to 25 percent, even though more than half of the voters who said the economy was the biggest problem also said abortion should be mostly legal.


The economy may be helping Republicans most among Hispanic voters, who preferred Democrats to control Congress, 41-38. Although the sample size is small, the finding is consistent with the longer-term deterioration in Democratic support among the group. Hispanics voted for Democrats by almost a 50-point margin in the 2018 midterms, according to data from Pew Research, then President Donald J. Trump made surprising gains with them in 2020.

No racial or ethnic group was likelier than Hispanic voters to cite the economy or inflation as the most important issue facing the country, with 42 percent citing an economic problem compared with 35 percent of non-Hispanic voters.

Republicans also appear poised to expand their already lopsided advantage among white voters without a college degree. They back Republicans by more than a two-to-one margin, 54-23. Even so, nearly a quarter remain undecided compared with just 7 percent of white college graduates.