By: Errin Haines, Barbara Rodriguez, Jasmine Mithani, The 19th News
As Americans prepare to go to the polls in less than two months, the question of democracy arises This is the most important thing for many, according to a new 19th News/SurveyMonkey poll.
“Preserving Democracy,” along with “Jobs and the Economy,” was the most important issue for Americans in the midterm elections, with nearly a quarter of adults choosing the issue as the most important. With 34 percent, it was the clear choice for the Democrats.
The party split runs across genders, with Republican men (31 percent) and women (29 percent) more likely to say jobs and the economy are their primary motivations for voting. Upholding democracy was more likely to motivate democratic men (37 percent) and women (33 percent). Among the self-employed, work and business is the top issue for men (32 percent), women (30 percent) and gender non-conforming people (22 percent). For non-gender Democrats, LGBTQ+ issues are the number one motivator to vote; Not enough gender-nonconforming Republicans were surveyed for the analysis.
What motivates Americans to vote?
Percentage of Americans in the 19th News/SurveyMonkey 2022 poll who said each of the following reasons was their primary motivation for voting
|jobs and economy||26%||23%||18%||24%|
|America’s place in the world||9%||10%||8th%||10%|
|Vote against a political party||9%||6%||6%||7%|
|To support my political party||5%||5%||3%||5%|
|climate and environment||5%||5%||6%||5%|
Online survey conducted August 22-29, 2022 among a national sample of 20,799 adults with a modeled error estimate of ±1.0 percentage points.
Numbers may not add up to 100 percent due to rounding.
source: 19th News/SurveyMonkey survey
diagram: Jasmine MithaniThe 19th?19.news.org
In campaign ads and on the stump, Republicans have blamed Democrats for inflation and the high cost of living from the gas pump to the grocery store. Democrats have called Republicans too extreme on abortion and a threat to democracy, pointing to candidates who have made false claims that the 2020 election results are invalid.
according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis, abstainers are on the ballot for around 60 percent of Americans this fall. Polls show that 70 percent of Republicans continue to believe former President Donald Trump didn’t lose in 2020 — a lie he still regularly tells when he rallies amid an ongoing investigation into his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurgency keeps
Andrea Benjamin, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma, said voters might reassess the health of the government not only after the 2020 election, but also after the Supreme Court ruling overturning federal abortion rights. Some potential voters may realize that governing bodies such as state legislatures have tremendous power to affect their lives.
“It’s kind of a perfect storm,” Benjamin told The 19th. “…I think this idea of saving democracy might come back to some of those questions.”
The 19th News/SurveyMonkey poll shows that 2 in 5 Americans believe democracy works “very” or “somewhat” well for them. Martha Sheard of Snellville, Georgia, 51, said it’s working reasonably well for her. The Detroit native, who moved to the Atlanta suburb 15 years ago and owned a home repair business, said “there are so many forces” working against the Democrats. Sheard is also a Democrat and wants President Joe Biden to get more of his agenda through Congress.
“Things could be better if everything wasn’t a fight,” she said.
Sheard and her wife have voted absentee for the past few cycles, and she is planning how she will vote in November. Her previous ballot box was moved, and she said there was confusion in the state after new election laws were passed in 2021.
Still, she said, the stakes were too high not to vote. Sheard recently spoke to three of her employees, all black men, about making sure they’re registered and planning to show up.
“I told them, ‘We can’t sit out,'” Sheard said. “If we don’t have democracy, only white men can tell everyone what to do. We don’t have all the money, but we can still fight. They want to make it so hard, but we know how easy it can be and they make it harder to choose.”
Upholding democracy, which Sheard cited as her primary motivation, could mean different things to voters, said Khalilah L. Brown-Dean, a professor of political science at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. It covers political hot spots like reproductive choices, protecting the right to vote, and even the future of school curricula and books. She said it also enables “a broader and more inclusive strategy that encompasses a range of identities and lived experiences.”
“One of the great ironies of American democracy is that women have often been asked to protect themselves while being denied access to their most basic protections,” Brown-Dean said in an email to The 19th. “And now, in 2022, we are seeing one of the most diverse cadres of women running for political office that transcends race, ethnicity, gender identity and class. A broader organization around preserving democracy can combine this diversity of candidates with mobilizing women voters as a cohesive bloc.”
The 19th News/SurveyMonkey poll shows that neither party came out on top in November. More than 7 in 10 Republicans and Democrats are excited to vote in this year’s election. 38 percent of Americans say they would vote for the Republican nominee; 39 percent say they would vote for the Democrat.
The survey was conducted online in English and Spanish from August 22nd to 29th among a national sample of 20,799 adults.
Black Americans are among the top supporters of the Democratic Party, and only two-thirds of black women and black men say they support President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Betty Moyers, 69, said democracy doesn’t work so well for her. She thought Americans settled many things during their lifetime, particularly regarding advances in race and gender.
But the self-proclaimed “diehard Democrat,” who grew up on a farm in Tennessee, was raised by parents who “were Republicans when Republicans were in politics,” she said. She says she is disappointed with what she currently sees in her country and fears for the future of democracy.
“I’ve never felt like this in my entire life,” Moyers said. “I have faith in the American people. We have to figure out what’s important.”
Moyers said she was “devastated” by watching it Congressional hearings on June 6 Attack on the Capitol as the 2020 election was certified. She is very motivated to vote on the abortion issue this year following the Supreme Court ruling.
“I fought that fight and I have no intention of fighting it again,” she said.
This story was originally published by the 19th and is republished here with permission in honor of US Democracy Day, a nationwide collaborative reporting project highlighting threats and challenges to democracy in the United States. Learn more at usdemocracyday.org.