Battleground voters center economy, support for middle class as top issues, national surveys say ⋆

Voters in battleground districts showed strong concern for the economy, rating both Democrats and Republicans low on their economic performance in a recently released set of reports monitoring public opinion on the economy and Trump-era tax policies. 

Navigator Research, a progressive polling organization, interviewed 1,500 likely voters across 61 battleground districts for 2024 across the country in early July before breaking down the findings in an online briefing on Tuesday. 

The polls included voters from Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District Rep. Hillary Scholten (D-Grand Rapids), Michigan’s 8th Congressional District, held by Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing), Michigan’s 10th Congressional District, held by Rep. John James (R-Shelby Twp.). 

According to one of the reports, battleground voters ranked inflation as their top issue, with 40% saying it should be a top issue for Congress. Threats to democracy ranked second, with 24% of voters ranking it as a top priority. 

Ian Smith

“Threats to democracy is kind of a Rorschach test,” said Ian Smith, Navigator Research’s director of polling and analytics.

“For Democrats this means vote choice, and kind of a response to some of the voter suppression that we’re seeing happening in more Republican states. For Republicans, especially those who consider themselves MAGA (Make America Great Again) Republicans, they’re thinking more about election integrity and the big lie,” Smith said. 

When examining voter’s outlook on the economy, the report found 72% of the individuals surveyed rated the state of affairs in the economy as “poor” or “Not so good.” Democrats in battleground districts held more positive outlooks on the economy than Republicans, with roughly 56% of battleground state Democrats rating the state of the economy as “good” or “excellent” compared to about 4% of Republicans. 

Smith noted that Black voters also had a more positive economic outlook, with 46% of Black voters surveyed rating the economy as “good” or “excellent.”

“Obviously, [Democrats and Black voters] are more favorable to [President Joe] Biden, therefore more likely to give him some credit for the economy,” Smith said.  

While Democrats representing battleground districts received higher marks than Republican representatives, negative evaluations of each party’s incumbent’s economic performance outweighed positive responses for both parties, particularly among independent voters. 

When examining why Republicans polled lower on economic favorability, Navigator found that more than 53% of people said that Republicans prioritized the wrong things, with 59% saying Republicans were more focused on non-economic issues. 

“Whether or not you are focused on the right things is almost solely down to whether or not you’re actually putting the economy first in the eyes of the voter you’re talking to,” Smith said. 

Navigator battleground survey, July 2023

In an interview with the Advance, Smith explained the lower scores for Democrats were likely due to the economy’s current performance. 

“When we look at specifically where Democrats are being hit on the economy, right now in more recent surveys, it’s just the fact that we have the administration and the economy isn’t performing for [voters] as well as they would like,” Smith said.

Despite concerns about Republicans’ policy focuses, battleground voters expressed greater trust in Republicans to handle economic issues with 44% saying they trusted Republicans more, versus 36% who expressed more trust for Democrats. When asked which party they trusted to support the right policies in Congress, 41% answered Democrats while 37% trusted Republicans more.

When asked whether job creation or the middle class drives the economy, a majority of voters surveyed credited a strong middle class with driving American economic growth.

According to the report, battleground voters also criticized each party’s policy support for middle class and working people, with two thirds of voters saying that Republicans’ and Democrats’ policies don’t help the middle class enough. 

Navigator battleground survey, July 2023

However, Republicans faced greater scrutiny for how their policies impacted the wealthy and corporations with 60% of voters saying Republican policies provided too much help to wealthy individuals and companies. 

While Democrats get a little bit more credit for prioritizing the economy, battleground voters feel the middle class is not prioritized enough, Smith said. 

“There’s still this sense that the middle class isn’t being prioritized overall and that there’s too much focus on the wealthy and corporations specifically from Republican companies,” Smith said.

In a separate report analyzing battleground voter’s response to Trump-era tax policies, Navigator found voters broadly supported raising taxes on billionaires and large corporations as well as closing tax loopholes for the same groups. 

Overall 73% of voters in the poll said they would strongly or somewhat favor raising taxes on billionaires and corporations, while 77% showed support for closing tax loopholes.

While Republican voters showed less support for raising billionaire and corporate taxes than Democrats and independents, they showed support for closing tax loopholes, with 65% favoring closing loopholes compared to 47% in favor of raising taxes. 

Navigator battleground survey, July 2023

When asked about Trump-era tax policy, independent voters initially showed more support than opposition for making these policies permanent. However when Navigator presented voters with criticisms of the policy, support decreased for voters across the political spectrum. 

Among the messages that had the greatest impact on voters, Democrats, Republicans and independents showed the most concern over cuts to Social Security and Medicare, as well as corporations not paying taxes on profits.

When presented with criticism that former President Donald Trump’s tax plan would increase the federal deficit by $1 trillion and could lead to cuts in Social Security and Medicare with 85% of Democrats, 64% of independents and 56% of Republicans saying this concerned them a great deal. 

When Navigator shared criticisms that fifty-five companies, including Nike and FedEx paid $0 in federal income taxes in 2020, 90% of Democrats, 66% of independents and 50% of Republicans said this concerned them a great deal. 

Navigator battleground survey, July 2023

Between Navigator’s national and battleground polls, voters showed consistent concerns about the economy and inflation, Smith said. 

In the upcoming 2024 election, the economy will play a central role without a doubt, Smith said.

“The economy is complex, right? So who’ll be able to make the case that they’re producing more jobs, focus more on the middle class, has a plan to reduce or curb inflation,” Smith said. 

“If you can address prescription drug costs, Social Security and Medicare, all of that are under that big umbrella of the economy. Whoever makes the better arguments there is going to be in a good position,” Smith said.

Navigator battleground survey, July 2023



authored by Kyle Davidson
First published at

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