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DECISION 2024 – CNHI ELECTION POLL: Economy is voters' biggest concern | National

For CNHI readers recently surveyed in 22 states, the health of the U.S. economy is top of mind. Respondents were asked to select three issues as their top concerns as the 2024 presidential election cycle gets into full swing.

The combined choice of economy/inflation/national debt was chosen by 64% of the 1,340 respondents, followed by immigration/national security at 54% and abortion/reproductive rights at 38%.

The unscientific online survey was conducted from January 25th to February 2nd. The Daily Telegraph was among the newspapers that took part in the survey.

The CNHI newspapers participating in the survey are located primarily in the Midwest, South and Northeast, with a strong presence in Indiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York State.

“The economy is No. 1 and it will remain No. 1, perhaps even by a larger margin.” That's why people are currently voting undecided. Even though a lot of the economic data is good, there is still a sense of uncertainty,” said Chris Ellis, a political science professor and co-director of the Institute for Public Policy at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.

The remaining issues prioritized by respondents were, in order: climate change/energy policy, election integrity, foreign policy, crime, education and social justice. Finally, 9% of U.S. democracy preservation polls included “other” filler answers

The U.S. economy beat expectations as more than 353,000 new jobs were added in January, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, led by gains in professional and business services, health care and retail. This continued two months of strong growth.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, hourly wages rose, gross domestic product grew and unemployment remained stable. While inflation rose in consecutive months, the rate has been declining almost continuously since peaking in June 2022, data shows.

Michael Frank, a political science professor at Anderson University in Indiana, said research shows voters' attitudes toward the economy are influenced more by national conditions than by their own bank accounts.

However, Frank said individuals are likely to point to local conditions when thinking about their own finances and the issues they face. “At the same time, they are very sensitive to price changes,” he said.

Shanna Padgham, professor and chair of political science at Oklahoma City Community College, had a different view. She has found that voters tend to focus more on their individual finances when thinking about the country's economy and comparing how big their paycheck might be compared to past years and previous presidential administrations.

“People may feel like their individual finances don't stretch as far, even if they make more money,” Padgham said.

Respondents to the CNHI survey were predominantly men aged 60 years or older. There was a nearly even distribution of political affiliation: 34% Democrats, 34% Republicans and 32% independents or third parties.

About 53% of respondents said they voted for President Joe Biden in 2020, with 41% supporting Trump. Looking ahead to the November general election, nearly 48% said they would vote for Biden, 37% supported Trump and 14% are either undecided or plan to vote for another candidate.

Selecting “Other” in this category allowed declarations to be written in. About 70 said they would vote for Republican Nikki Haley, while nearly 50 said they would rather vote for someone other than presumptive nominees Biden and Trump.

“I was actually surprised at how well Biden did. “I’m not shocked that he’s ahead, but I didn’t expect this margin,” said Nick Clark, a professor and department head of political science at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania.

Padgham also expressed surprise, pointing out that a survey limited to Oklahoma, where she lives, would likely produce very different results. Trump received 65% of the vote in the Sooner State in 2020.

She said she believes voters are largely clear about who they want to vote for. That could change for some supporters, both she and Ellis said, pending the outcome of Trump's ongoing legal battles. Frank is not convinced that the outcome of Trump's ongoing legal battles will persuade his supporters not to vote for him.

A federal appeals court this week rejected Trump's argument that he should be immune from prosecution related to the 2020 election and attempts to overturn the results.

Depending on whether wars in Ukraine, Israel and beyond the Middle East continue to escalate, including a possible conflict between China and Taiwan, the importance of foreign policy could increase.

“If there is an attack on the United States as a result, terrorism and national security will suddenly become a significantly increasing problem,” Clark said.

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