Shifting issue priorities offer glimmer of hope for Democrats as midterms loom: The Note

Voters are concerned about more than the economy.

June 6, 2022, 6:01 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

There's every reason for Democrats to be down on their midterm chances -- and the latest ABC News/Ipsos poll reinforces a bunch of them, from President Joe Biden's underwater approval rating across a range of issues to the clear signals that high prices are likely to swamp just about everything else.

But ahead of the biggest day of primary voting this year and in a week that will showcase the lowest moments of the previous presidency -- as the House's Jan. 6 committee begins more public hearings -- there are signs that voters' concerns are adjusting to events other than rising prices and economic uncertainties.

Those issues remain huge. The ABC/Ipsos poll finds inflation either extremely or very important to 80% of voters, and gas prices prioritized at that same level by 74%. Biden's approval in handling both of those stands below 30%.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden walk to Marine One at Cape Henlopen State Park in Rehoboth Beach, Del., June 5, 2022.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden walk to Marine One at Cape Henlopen State Park in Rehoboth Beach, Del., June 5, 2022.
Patrick Semansky/AP

But after a rash of horrific shootings, 72% of voters in this poll say gun violence will be either extremely or very important in their votes for Congress. With the Supreme Court expected to overturn Roe v. Wade in the coming weeks, the issue of abortion is extremely or very important to 63% of voters.

Perhaps more surprising are the results when voters were asked to name their single most important issue this fall. Inflation was chosen by 21% and the economy more broadly by 19% -- yet gun violence registered at 17% and abortion at 12%.

Biden's leadership is hardly being applauded at the moment on those issues, either. But the poll does suggest some malleability in what could be vote-driving issues this fall -- including in some areas that Democrats feel they have strong cases to make.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

The separate weekend mass shootings on a crowded street in Philadelphia and outside a nightclub in Chattanooga, Tennessee, have, yet again, called attention to the pervasiveness of gun violence across the country.

Despite President Joe Biden's impassioned plea last week for congressional action on gun control, the reality is the math isn't in his favor, and he knows it.

On Friday, Biden told reporters that he would do what he could to have "real progress" on new legislation. It's certainly not indicative of a president confident that any major changes will come to fruition. That sentiment was echoed by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg when asked on Sunday by "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos how he would handle gun violence if he were still mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

"You take the steps that you can to reduce community violence, to invest in partnerships, to make sure that you've taken the steps you can locally," Buttigieg said. "But you're also looking at Washington to say, 'Will anything be different this time?'"

PHOTO: A person walks past the scene of a fatal overnight shooting on South Street in Philadelphia, June 5, 2022.
A person walks past the scene of a fatal overnight shooting on South Street in Philadelphia, June 5, 2022.
Michael Perez/AP

The necessity of 10 Republican votes in the Senate makes most of Biden's push, including for limits on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, simply a wish list.

A bipartisan group of senators is discussing reforms that fall short of Biden's ask, but negotiation is no guarantee that anything will be passed. Remember bipartisan talks on police reform? Those negotiations are dead without any immediate plans for resurrection.

Americans say gun control remains important to them. According to the latest ABC News/Ipsos poll, 70% think that enacting new laws to reduce gun violence should be a higher priority than protecting the right to own a wide variety of firearms.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Although Pennsylvania's election officials have until Wednesday to conclude the automatic recount in the Republican Senate primary, the exceedingly close race is already off to the general election after GOP candidate Dave McCormick conceded to Dr. Mehmet Oz on Friday.

"It's now clear to me with the recount largely complete, that we have a nominee, and today I called Mehmet Oz to congratulate him on his victory, and I told him what I always said to you -- that that I will do my part to try to unite Republicans and Pennsylvanians behind his candidacy, behind his nomination for the Senate," McCormick told staff and supporters in Pittsburgh during an event that was originally billed as an "Election Recount Party."

The announcement came hours after the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman -- who won every county in the state despite suffering a stroke on May 13 -- addressed his campaign trail absence in a statement that was accompanied by a letter from his cardiologist. Fetterman attributed his "completely preventable" situation to a buildup of his own medical inaction following a 2017 heart condition diagnosis.

"Like so many others, and so many men in particular, I avoided going to the doctor, even though I knew I didn't feel well. As a result, I almost died," he said, adding that the road to recovery was likely to delay imminent campaigning.

PHOTO: Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman campaigns for U.S. Senate at a meet and greet in Lemont Furnace,, Pa., May 10, 2022.
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman campaigns for U.S. Senate at a meet and greet in Lemont Furnace,, Pa., May 10, 2022.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images, FILE

"It will take some more time to get back on the campaign trail like I was in the lead-up to the primary. It's frustrating -- all the more so because this is my own fault -- but bear with me, I need a little more time," Fetterman said.

Although he has been communicating with supporters via social media posts and videos throughout his recovery, ongoing campaign delays could open the door to long-term questions about his health, especially amid a matchup against a cardiothoracic surgeon who is already throwing jabs across the aisle.


South Carolina's Tom Rice was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Now, as Rice fights an uphill battle for his political life in the heart of Trump country, he is standing by that choice -- calling it "the conservative vote" in an interview with ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl that aired on "This Week" on Sunday. "I did it then. And I would do it again tomorrow," Rice said. He said Trump deserved to be impeached for potentially endangering former Vice President Mike Pence and his family at the Capitol and not acting more quickly to stop the deadly riot as it unfolded last year. Trump has vowed vengeance against Rice, endorsing one of his six primary opponents and holding a rally in his district in March. Rice, though, is facing down the criticism -- and touting his conservative record beyond impeachment. "If I am a 'disaster' and a 'total fool' and I voted with [Trump] 169 times out of 184, what does that make him?" Rice said to Karl. "I was following his lead."

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

20. That's how many California primaries we at FiveThirtyEight would recommend you keep close tabs on Tuesday night. And as FiveThirtyEight's Geoffrey Skelley writes, the interesting races include the House, given redistricting in the state. A number of Democrats could be in real trouble come November. Be sure to join us on the FiveThirtyEight live blog as we cover California's primaries, as well as those in Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota starting at 7:30 p.m. ET.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Monday morning with ABC's Janai Norman on the latest from the mass shooting in Philadelphia. Then, ABC's Jonathan Karl explains why a former Trump adviser is now facing criminal charges related to the Jan. 6 attack. And, ABC News contributor Dr. Genevieve Yang breaks down why more doctors are saying herd immunity to COVID-19 is no longer possible.


  • At 9:30 a.m. ET, President Joe Biden receives the President’s Daily Brief. This meeting is closed press.
  • Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre delivers a briefing at 2:30 p.m.

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