Controversial Issues Divide Voters in Mid-Term Elections

Mid-term congressional elections, so named because they occur half-way through a president’s four-year term, traditionally serve as a referendum on the commander-in-chief’s popularity. The elections also can shift control of the Senate or House of Representatives from one party to another, resulting in significant policy changes.

Mid-term congressional elections, so named because they occur half-way through a president’s four-year term, traditionally serve as a referendum on the commander-in-chief’s popularity. The elections also can shift control of the Senate or House of Representatives from one party to another, resulting in significant policy changes.

in Elections, Healthcare, Human rights, Immigration
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Controversial Issues Divide Voters in Mid-Term Elections

Many factors played roles in determining who came out on top when U.S. voters went to the polls on Nov. 6.

Mid-term congressional elections, so named because they occur half-way through a president’s four-year term, traditionally serve as a referendum on the commander-in-chief’s popularity. The elections also can shift control of the Senate or House of Representatives from one party to another, resulting in significant policy changes.

Polls indicated that voters were highly motivated for this year’s mid-terms, mainly due to their diverse opinions of President Trump. A majority of Republicans continue to back the administration, while Democrats are overwhelmingly opposed.

In a survey that NBC News and the Wall Street Journal conducted in October, 47 percent of registered voters said they supported Trump – the highest approval rating he had ever received in the poll. The previous month, 44 percent sided with the president and 52 percent disliked him.

Forty-nine percent of the October poll’s respondents opposed Trump. The narrow two-point margin between approval and disapproval left political pundits wondering about the impact the president would have on the mid-terms. Trump had been touring the country, holding rallies for Republican candidates. He warned that if Democrats win the majority in the House, they would block the GOP’s legislative agenda.

The Big “If” - How Young Vote May Affect The Midterms (Or Not)
The Big “If” – How Young Vote May Affect The Midterms (Or Not)

Fifty percent of voters told the pollsters that they wanted Democrats to control Congress, while 41 percent said they hoped Republicans would maintain their majorities in the House and Senate. The September survey showed a 12-point gap in the so-called “generic ballot,” in favor of the Democrats.

African-Americans, Latinos, college-educated women, young adults and voters who registered as independents were most likely to criticize Trump and other Republicans. There was also a walk-away movement that caused the above groups to walk away from their traditional voting patterns. For the first time, there was a movement among African-Americans that strongly supported President Trump and the Republican Party.

A majority of voters said they agreed with Democrats on health care and immigration. Most of them favored Republican positions on the economy, trade and the Supreme Court nomination process.

Mid-term elections generally draw far fewer voters to the polls than presidential votes. This year, though, an uncharacteristically high number of people cast ballots. About two out of three of the respondents in the October survey said they were “very interested” in the mid-terms. Fifty-two percent rated the elections as the most “important” in their lifetimes.

In another poll just a few weeks before the election, by the Kaiser Foundation, health care was the top answer when people were asked to identify the most important issue. Thirty percent, including 40 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of independents, gave that response.

Just 17 percent of Republicans put health care at the head of their priority lists. Twenty-five percent of them said immigration was the most crucial issue, while 23 percent named jobs or the economy. A Pew Research poll found that terrorism, Supreme Court appointments, gun control, taxes, and the federal budget deficit also ranked higher than health care for GOP voters.

Healthcare

The health-care issues of greatest concern were the rising cost of prescription drugs, which 24 percent of the Pew poll’s respondents cited; and access to medical treatment, which 19 percent mentioned. Just 4 percent told the pollsters that the “Medicare for all” proposal advocated by many Democrats was a factor for them in the mid-terms.

Congressional Republicans have been unable to fulfill their campaign promise of repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, though they have succeeded in weakening the program. Democrats want to either expand Obamacare or replace it with a system that guarantees health-insurance coverage to all Americans.

Healthcare
November 6 and The Future of Healthcare Reform in the US

As the election neared, an increasing number of voters were expressing interest in immigration issues. There was considerable debate about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows those who come to the United States as minors to remain in the country under certain conditions.

Family Separations

The Trump administrationÃ’s practice of separating migrant children from their parents at the border, and holding them in different detention centers, elicited strong reactions from voters. Most Republicans were supporting the president’s positions on DACA and family separations.

An immigrant caravan involving more than 7,000 undocumented immigrants heading north through Mexico toward the United States further inflamed the fight over immigration. Trump has vowed to stop the group, even if he must close the border.

In the Pew poll, conducted before the caravan began, 20 percent of all respondents identified immigration as the top issue in the mid-terms. Twenty-one percent of Republicans gave that answer, about the same as the 18 percent of Democrats who did so.

Economy

The economy, especially how it affects the job market, is usually a major issue in U.S. elections. Despite rising stock prices and falling unemployment numbers, many Americans are still worried about the nation’s financial future.

In the NBC-WSJ poll, 37 percent of those contacted ranked the economy and jobs as the most critical issue. That trailed only health care, which 38 percent of the respondents cited, though the cost of insurance is an economic matter. Many voters, particularly middle-income people, are anxious about housing and food expenses.

Wages for low-income workers and the middle class have failed to keep pace with inflation. There are fears that the Federal Reserve Board’s recent decision to raise interest rates, as well as Trump’s trade tariffs, will accelerate inflation.

Congress has tried to stimulate the economy by cutting taxes for wealthy individuals and corporations, which Republican leaders claim will encourage businesses to expand and create jobs. Democrats call the strategy an example of trickle-down economics that does not benefit low- and middle-income Americans.

Tax Cuts

The Tax Cut and Jobs Act was the subject of a poll by the Republican National Committee. Sixty percent of those contacted said the legislation was a boon to the rich that did not help ordinary people. Only 31 percent took the opposite view.
The “America First” approach to international trade that the president champions is a stark departure from the policies of previous administrations. Trump has pulled out of trade agreements with other countries and imposed tariffs on the products they export to the United States.

The president argues that the fees will promote the sale of American goods and the creation of jobs. The results so far are mixed, as China and others have responded to the tariffs by imposing import taxes on products they get from the United States.

Judicial appointments

Judicial appointments are important to many voters, especially in light of the Senate’s recent confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Eighty percent of Republicans backed the judge and 66 percent of Democrats opposed him. A Pew poll in late September found that at the time, 76 percent of registered voters were motivated by the Kavanaugh fight.

Trump has also appointed conservative judges to lower federal courts, which will affect rulings on various issues for many years.

Human rights

Human rights is another issue dividing liberals and conservatives. Trump does not believe in pressuring countries to adopt measures ensuring the safety and security of their people. He maintains that human rights should not be a consideration in forming alliances or reaching agreements with foreign governments. Predictably, Republican voters tend to agree with the president, while Democrats do not.

With about a week remaining, in the mid-term races, Republicans led Democrats in campaign cash. Financial-disclosure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission showed that GOP candidates had $337 million in the bank. Democrats were sitting on $285 million.

From the beginning of the year through September, super PACs aligned with Republicans raked in $531 million. That exceeded the $471 million that committees supporting Democrats accumulated. However, overall, Democrats had outraised Republicans $1.29 billion to $1.23 billion.

The statistics do not include donations that came from large donors in the final few weeks before the election. Experts thought total spending would top $5 billion, the most ever for mid-term elections.

The face of the House changed significantly, with Democrats seizing the majority. Thirty-seven GOP representatives, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, were not running for re-election , compared with 18 Democrats. That helped Democrats pick up the 23 seats they need to take control of the lower chamber, which Republicans had dominated since 2011. Some of the retiring lawmakers were facing sexual-harassment complaints, while others found themselves lagging in the polls.

Two weeks before the election, the battle for control of the House was still too close to call. Democrats held a narrow lead in key districts. In 69 percent of the closest races, 50 percent of voters were backing Democrats, and 47 percent preferred Republicans. The GOP benefited from the fact that it already held seats in 63 of those districts. However, survey responses in 48 districts that Trump won in 2016 totaled a virtual tie between the two parties’ candidates.

Most political pundits expected the Democrats to win the House majority, but doubted that they would take the Senate. The predictions proved to be true, as the Republicans held on to their control of the upper chamber.

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