All Articles Leadership More than a stalled economy at fault for Tuesday’s election results

More than a stalled economy at fault for Tuesday’s election results

4 min read


While much was made by national media about the health care reform law passed earlier this year — some taking to dubbing it “ObamaCare” — polls taken after Tuesday’s midterm elections seem to show that economic woes found in many parts of the country also contributed to the Democrats’ downfall.

Here at SmartBrief, our poll of readers of our Digestive Health SmartBrief newsletter showed similar results, but with one interesting exception: When given a choice to note a “general satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the government,”  almost half our readers voted for that option.

Check out what our readers had to say:

If you plan to vote, what is the most important issue driving you to the polls?

  • 48.44% — General satisfaction/dissatisfaction with the current government
  • 35.42% — Economic instability
  • 12.76% — Health care reform
  • 3.39% — Immigration concerns

How much will health care reform influence your decision to vote?

  • 33.07% — I will vote for a different party because of it.
  • 33.07% — I support the reform and will vote because of it.
  • 32.27% — It will not change my decision to vote/not vote.
  • 1.59% — I will not vote because of it.

While this information does little more than muddy the waters of pundits trying to paint the election as a referendum on President Barack Obama or as a sign of frustration with any one thing, it may be the key to understanding how the next two years will play out for those across a variety of industries.

Wednesday saw Republicans trumpet their intent to cut away at health care reform with their majority in the House, and the conservative Heritage Foundation is issuing a manifesto of sorts for the next two years that includes spending freezes and budget controls. But many political reporters said they saw this race as being about a wider variety of issues.

The fate of Social Security, often referred to as the third rail of American politics, was a hot-button issue with aging populations, particularly in the Northeast. Interestingly, it was the candidates proposing changes to the current system (hence the well-earned third-rail moniker) who saw the most blowback from voters.

Immigration concerns, on the other hand, played big in some of the states most directly affected by the problem, such as Arizona and Texas. But the issue was a factor in races as far north as Idaho, as noted by statehouse reporter Brad Iverson-Long.

A race between Republican challenger Raul Labrador and Democrat Walt Minnick in Idaho’s 1st District saw Labrador take a 10-point victory on the back of his pledge to use his experience as an immigration lawyer to make illegal immigration his top priority, Iverson-Long said.

In Arizona, political newcomer Ruth McClung held incumbent Democrat Raul Grijalva to under 50% of the vote in a heavily Democratic district — a place where Grijalva has barely had to put out signs to secure victory in past elections. McClung hammered Grijalva for calling for a boycott of his own state after the passage of that state’s controversial immigration-reform act, which allows state and local officers to handle immigration issues as part of their normal workload.

“I believe we’ve shown America there is no safe district,” McClung told the Arizona Daily Star.

That may be true for both parties going forward, because while Republicans were able to carve out key victories this cycle by capitalizing on the public’s confusion about health care reform and frustration with a seemingly stalled economy, the next two years are pivotal.

In the high moment of the 2008 elections, Democrats benefited from a tide of discontent, with the recession just beginning to hit and nearly three-fourths of voters polled saying the country was headed in the wrong direction, according to CNN. That number actually dropped to 62% for this year’s election, yet saw Republicans take the largest swap of seats in the House by either party since Harry Truman was in the White House.

No one’s really sure to blame, either, with Wall Street and presidents Bush and Obama each taking much of the finger-pointing in the same poll. And neither party — 43% to 41% in favorability for the Donkeys over the Elephants — can say it has earned a significant amount of trust.