In a Post-Roe World Will Inflation Still Dominate Our Attention?

Daniel A. Cox May 9, 2022

A woman's hands holding an open wallet. She has pulled out a one dollar bill.

After Politico released a draft opinion that would overturn the nearly 50-year-old Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision which ruled that abortion is a constitutional right, it has been speculated that the issue of abortion could upend the 2022 midterm elections by energizing otherwise apathetic Democratic voters. But not everyone agrees. Joe Manchin, the Democratic Senator from West Virginia, suggested that inflation remains the most significant issue for his state. In an interview with CNN Manchin said: “Inflation is the number one driving factor … I believe in my state right now it’s hurting everybody.”

He could be right. In a poll conducted last month, no issue elicited greater concern among the public than inflation and rising prices. The March 2022 American Perspectives Survey finds that more than seven in 10 (71 percent) Americans say they are very or extremely concerned about inflation. Substantially fewer express the same level of concern about Russia’s military resurgence (51 percent), crime (47 percent), the possibility of nuclear war (42 percent), climate change (41 percent), illegal immigration (31 percent), or COVID-19 (27 percent)

Inflation is also causing apprehension across the partisan divide, although Republicans express greater concern. Eighty-three percent of Republicans and roughly two-thirds (65 percent) of Democrats say they are extremely or very concerned about inflation.

Partisan views vary somewhat by income. Higher-earners, who may be less affected by higher prices, express less concern.  Seventy-nine percent of Republicans making over $150,000 a year say they are concerned about higher prices, compared to 86 percent of Republicans making less than $50,000 annually who express concern over the matter.

There’s an even more notable income divide among Democrats. About half (51 percent) of Democrats making over $150,000 report being concerned about inflation compared to eight in 10 (80 percent) Democrats making less than $50,000 annually.

Inflation is no doubt on the minds of the American people. But will this Supreme Court bombshell be enough to drive voters to the polls this fall? Most public polling suggests that overturning Roe v. Wade would be politically unpopular. But it is decidedly unclear whether it will drive more Americans to turn out this year, or if it will induce greater support for Democratic candidates in a tough political year. Unless prices begin to fall, existing concerns about inflation and the economy, issues on which Republicans are now more trusted than Democrats, may very well continue to motivate voters in the midterms.

For now, it’s a good bet that regardless of whether Roe v. Wade is overturned, inflation worries are not going to disappear. In this and other polling, no other issue comes close to generating the level of concern as inflation, and that’s likely going to be reflected in how Americans vote this fall.

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