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Voters ID inflation, immigration as top concerns ahead of presidential election

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Likely voters are focused on inflation and price increases, illegal immigration and the economy as incumbent President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump prepared for a rematch of 2020 in November.

The Center Square Voters’ Voice Poll, conducted in conjunction with Noble Predictive Insights, found that given a range of options to identify their top concerns, likely voters said inflation/price increases (45%), illegal immigration (44%) and the economy/jobs (24%) were the issues that matter most to them.

Rounding out the top 10 issues were abortion rights (22%), crime/violence (22%), government corruption (20%), climate change (19%), health care access (18%), national debt/government spending (16%) and national security (16%).

But inflation and illegal immigration were by far the most common responses.

“Inflation is a high-ranking issue among Democrats and Republicans and True Independents,” David Byler of Noble Predictive Insights told The Center Square. “Every political group thinks this matters.”

Inflation peaked at 9.1% in June 2022 and over the past 12 months, the all items index increased 3.2% before seasonal adjustment. The inflation rate remains above the Fed’s 2% target. Price increases and inflation have squeezed American budgets. And while the wealthy may have more cushion when it comes to inflation, that doesn’t mean they like it.

“The thing that makes inflation so politically dangerous is that it hits everyone,” Byler said.

Illegal immigration has gotten more attention as border states such as Arizona and Texas have sent busloads of migrants to cities around the country. Texas has paid to bus more than 102,000 migrants to cities including New York, Chicago and Denver, among others.

The issue of illegal immigration has climbed from the middle of the pack to near the top. The summer 2023 Voters’ Voice Poll found inflation topped the list with 44% of voters identifying it as the top concern, followed by crime/violence (27%) and illegal immigration (25%). Polling shows voters’ concerns about those issues have grown since then, with worries about illegal immigration overtaking crime/violence.

“When we’re in an election like this where both candidates are highly well-known, Americans have the experience of being governed by both men, you’re in a situation where the issue matrix really matters,” Byler said. “The issues have shifted from ones that favored Biden in 2020 to ones that Trump tends to perform best on, like the economy and like immigration.”

Economic issues have a way of moving to the top of the list, said Michael Bitzer, politics department chair at Catawba College in North Carolina.

“Simply because voters tend to focus on economic issues when they are prominent in the political environment,” he told The Center Square. “Things like the unemployment rate, when it is high, takes center stage in voters’ minds and decision-making, along with pocketbook issues like prices. It has really been several election cycles since we have seen inflation be a top concern of voters, because of the historic trendline of inflation being so low, and its recent spike upwards, and now a return to what we have generally since over the past decade.”

A survey on American fears, done each year by Chapman University, found that corrupt government officials (60.1% were very afraid or afraid) were America’s biggest fear in 2023. That was followed by economic/financial collapse (54.7%).

The poll of 2,510 voters included 1,044 Republicans, 1,126 Democrats and 340 true independents. It was conducted March 11-15 and has a margin of error of +/- 2%.

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