TRENTON – Republican voters are more enthusiastic than Democrats to vote in this year’s midterm election, according to results issued Wednesday of national polls and a New Jersey one conducted by Stockton University.

The Stockton University Poll didn’t find that Democratic enthusiasm has collapsed but that Republicans appear more motivated.

And although Democrats enjoyed a 10-point advantage in a generic question about which party voters back in the congressional election, 47% to 37%, the poll found that the economy and inflation are the top issues – and that voters generally align more with the GOP views on those topics.

Good news for Republicans

“Voters are generally enthusiastic about the midterms, but really high among Republican voters,” said John Froonjian, director of Stockton’s Hughes Center for Public Policy.

“There is some good news for Republicans in this poll,” he said. “Support for President Biden is weak, Republican enthusiasm is strong, and the top issues in the election are working for the Republicans.”

More than half of voters, 57%, said they are very enthusiastic about voting in the midterms, and 21% said they’re somewhat enthusiastic. But more Republicans said they were eager to vote; 70% are very enthusiastic, compared to 54% of Democrats and 55% of independents.

Top issues for voters

Twenty-five percent of voters cited the economy as the election’s top issue, with 11% choosing the related issues of inflation or cost of living – “far and away the most important issue,” Froonjian said, with more voters aligning with Republicans on the issue.

The only other issue in double-digits was abortion, cited by 12% of voters. Half of voters said a candidate’s views on abortion would greatly impact their vote – including 63% of women, among whom voters were 2.5 times more likely to align with the Democratic position on the issue.

Froonjian said there are two issues where Democrats have a clear advantage – abortion and health care.

“But health care just has not broken through as a key issue in this election. And in fact, it’s really hard for me to say what the Democrats and the party are campaigning on,” Froonjian said. “I think with the Republicans it’s more focused.”

“Not sure you can point to a unifying message on the Democratic side,” he said. “So even though these issues resonate with a lot of voters, it doesn’t seem to be evident that at least health care is going to be driving votes. We’ll see if health care does.”

The story is similar nationwide

Results published Wednesday from a Quinnipiac University national poll found the share of voters identifying inflation as the top issue was up 9% since August, at 36%. Abortion ranked second at 10%. Republicans had a 9-point edge in voter enthusiasm.

Also, a CNN Poll conducted by SSRS found voter enthusiasm down in both parties compared with the last midterms in 2018, but particularly among Democrats – with 24% of Democrats calling themselves extremely enthusiastic, down from 44%, compared with 38% of Republicans, down from 43%.

The Stockton Poll of New Jersey also found:

Split decision on Biden: 46% having favorable views and 47% unfavorable

No rematch, please: 56% – including 24% of Democrats – did not want Biden to run for re-election. Moreover, 67% – including 26% of Republicans – did not want former President Donald Trump to run again in two years.

Yes, it was an insurrection: Thirty percent of voters paid close attention to the congressional committee hearings about what happened at the Capitol when the Electoral College votes were counted on Jan. 6, 2021, though it doesn’t seem to have changed many viewpoints on the issue.

Nearly half said they considered what happened an insurrection to overthrow the government, one-fourth called it a riot but not a threat to democracy and 14% -- including 31% of Republicans – said it was a legal and justified protest.

Student debt forgiveness: Half support the Biden administration's decision to forgive $20,000 in student loan debt for people earning under $125,000, including 71% of voters under age 30. But 54% of those who had student debt at one point and paid it off oppose the move.

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The poll was conducted by the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University. It included 707 registered voters (not likely voters) and has a margin of error 3.7 percentage points. The poll was done from Oct. 6 to 18.

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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