As one party that is starting to wrangle candidates for next year’s midterm elections, Democrats have a lot of questions about what they’ll run on to victory next year. But one big topic Democrats have avoided in their early rhetorical warfare has been the topic of the cost of gas.
We’ve written before about the top issues plaguing Democratic voters – in particular, the high cost of gas at the pump – but our latest SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll shows that it may end up as one of the big stories of this year’s midterm elections. Our latest data shows that while President Trump’s approval rating is at a healthy 46 percent, his disapproval rating stands at 50 percent, a larger margin than it was early in his presidency. And while Democratic approval of Trump has inched up since last week’s poll, his disapproval is holding steady at 54 percent.
As voters weigh their choices in 2020, they may continue to focus on Trump’s opinions about gas prices. Nearly one-third of the public – 28 percent – thinks gas prices are the nation’s most important problem. And more voters nationwide – 46 percent – say gas prices are their top concern than say they are concerned about illegal immigration or health care.
Gas prices have swung in favor of Republicans in recent years: For the second consecutive week, 38 percent of Republicans say gas prices are the country’s most important problem, compared with 26 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of independents. By contrast, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say gas prices were the country’s most important problem in May.
Candidates are still more likely to say that legal immigration is the most important problem than gas prices are, but despite Democrats and Republicans complaining about the cost of gas, 32 percent of independents say the issue is a top concern for them.
Several Democratic candidates are going on the record about gas prices. On May 31, all Democratic senators and 21 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to the president about his decision to roll back the federal fuel economy standards. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said in a statement that he’d “continue to fight against new sanctions on Russia, which will increase gas prices,” and California congressional candidate Andrew Janz told Fox News that he plans to introduce legislation to increase gas taxes and that the gas prices “have really made many Californians and myself worry about our economy and our competitiveness in the world.”
Bloomberg reported in May that Rep. Andy Novak (R-Calif.) is pushing gas tax increases as part of his proposed solution to California’s budget woes. And on June 1, billionaire Mark Cuban wrote on Twitter that he might offer himself as a candidate to be president so that he could “take action on the cost of gas.”
The race to defeat Trump in 2020 is already unfolding on multiple fronts. Democrats are likely to revisit Trump’s rhetoric about the cost of gas, because of polls suggesting the public is concerned about the subject. Trump has previously cited gas prices as a campaign issue: In April 2016, he called then-Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton’s proposal to lower gas prices an “accomplishment,” and in February of this year, he referred to gas prices as “getting tougher and tougher.”
Trump’s poll numbers have kept low in part because of controversies over the handling of his alleged affinity for Russia and the opposition he faces from a divided Democratic Party. Democrats are beginning to get around to talking about gas prices, which seems inevitable if gas prices continue to be a political problem for Trump.
By Nicole Langhorne
We use the SurveyMonkey Live service to conduct polling, and we’ll be releasing information on voter attitudes toward a number of other issues like climate change and health care in the coming weeks. Don’t want to wait until the real data are available? Sign up for the weekly email Newsletter that breaks down national election, state legislative and local political polling.