2022 Midterm Elections State of Play

In an election where nothing seemed certain except for the distinct polarity between parties, candidates, and Americans nationwide, the overall outcome took several days to determine – ultimately with the Senate being held by Democrats and Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives by just a few seats.

At a glance, Republicans did not see the massive sweep of elected positions as some had expected. In some states like Florida, voters turned out in strong support of Republicans, specifically Governor Ron DeSantis – who may have set the scene for a 2024 Presidential run – while in other races, like gubernatorial races in Maryland and Massachusetts and State Senate and House races in Michigan, Democrats flipped control in their favor.

Because Republicans did not win as they expected across the nation, we can expect President Biden’s foreign policy and economic agenda to continue its current moderate course for the next two years. Meanwhile, we may see a potential shift away from former President Donald Trump’s extreme rhetoric and unpredictable political stances as the party unites around other Republican candidates, some with more moderate foreign policy stances.

Election Analysis

Leading up to this year’s midterm elections, President Biden’s approval rating plummeted due to rising inflation, an unstable economy and an unstable economy. While he has reached major milestones like passing the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and pledging to cancel student debt, his ratings remained low. Combined with an historical record of midterm elections where the opposition party to the president sees widespread victories, many believed a significantly large swing of votes towards Republican nominees was likely this election day.

Republicans hammered the message that inflation and crime are plaguing the country while Democrats consistently promoted a pro-choice agenda, which according to polling leading up to election day, was not resonating as strongly with voters. However, the post-election picture shows that the issue of abortion led voters to support the Democratic party’s candidates across the board while Republican losses marked a near total failure of the election-denier’s platform and the GOP’s inflation-related alarmism.

The picture is becoming clear that due to Republican aligned firms “flooding the zone,” polling averages made it seem that a “red wave” was coming. However, higher-quality nonpartisan polls, like Marist or Sienna proved to be much more accurate. Some critics say that the nature of polling compels people to agree with statements such as “the rise of inflation is President Biden’s fault” in a survey, where they might not make the same statement in a focus group setting, highlighting the need for a reevaluation of polling methodology.

Yet, the numbers do in fact show that this election drove the best overall voter turnout in a midterm election in the last twenty years, pointing to the salient moment American voters seem to find themselves in. Twenty years ago, when Americans came out to vote in the 2002 midterm elections, President Bush had high approval ratings and had just sent American troops to war in Afghanistan. These major events emboldened voters across the nation that their voice mattered, and we can surmise that Americans felt similarly compelled to vote in 2022.

Democratic victories show voters overall did not favor Republicans, yet, a closer look at post-election polling indicates that particular groups of voters actually shifted more towards Republicans. Significant findings from post-election polls show:

  • The vast majority of college educated women voted for Democrats, nationwide (FT)
  • Suburban white women flipped to favor Republican candidates overall (WSJ)
  • Black and Hispanic voters shifted more Republican overall, each moving double digit percentage points towards Republican candidates
  • Black voters continued to vote for Democrats overall, but young black voters moved 22 percentage points towards Republicans this election
  • While turnout was high among young voters, Democrats actually lost support from voters aged 18-29 as compared to 2018 (CNN)
Election Breakdown Figure from WSJ

In terms of religion, Christian-faith voters favored Republicans while Jewish, Muslim, Agnostic, and voters from other religions favored Democrats. However, fewer Jewish, Muslim, agnostic, or people from other religions voted Democratic than in 2018 (WSJ). This shift in votes towards Republicans was not enough to cause Democratic losses overall but is another indicator of the tightening of margins between Republican and Democratic votes.

Breakdown by Religion Figure from WSJ

Voters turned out in record rates to participate in elections they felt were significant – while Democrats held their ground stronger than expected, Republicans still gained votes with certain groups of people. This indicates that the public remains divided, but feels compelled to exercise its right to vote and participate in democracy, with various issues facing the American public and world.

Moving Forward

With a Democratic controlled Senate, a Republican controlled House, and a Democratic President for the next two years, what are the domestic and international policy implications of the years ahead?

Republicans gain some political control by flipping the House of Representatives and will impact President Biden’s ability to advance his agenda with a split congress. However, due to the Senate remaining in Democratic hands, expect the Senate to continue to confirm Mr. Biden’s judicial nominees at a record pace.

Specific consequences of Republican control of the House could include:

  • Limit or reject pandemic funding, aide to Ukraine, welfare programs, and more;
  • Disband the January 6th committee while starting up investigations on Mar-a-Lago search, Hunter Biden, Afghanistan withdrawal, immigration policies; and
  • Though it is unlikely, some Representatives have hinted at moving to impeach President Biden.

While Biden may face policy challenges at home, a changed perspective abroad may allow him to continue his foreign policy agenda without losing face from a significant challenge from Trump. The American voting public has shown that it has tempered its support for former President Donald Trump and the candidates he chose as allies, creating the perception in favor of Democrats, or a new GOP leader in the future. Some recently elected leaders such as Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu did have favorable relations with the Trump administration, however with such great uncertainty surrounding a successful Trump 2024 Presidential run, these leaders may be forced to work cooperatively with the Biden administration. Overall, Trump’s voice and power have been stunted, curbing his influence over both domestic and international politics.

All in all, the political climate remains divided. We may be seeing the start of a trendline in which increasing numbers of Americans may begin to blatantly reject Trump’s divisiveness, even in spite of Biden’s low approval ratings. This will allow President Biden to continue to advance his agenda, while the GOP exerts greater influence in the House and the party determines its leadership ahead of 2024.