Press Releases

Memo to Reporters: Polling Shows ‘Threat to Democracy’ Pivotal Issue in Midterms

Oct 03, 2022

What’s at stake in the midterms

As early voting starts in certain states and we head into the last month before the midterm elections, the threat to our democracy is on top of voters’ minds.

Poll after poll continues to show voters see the high stakes in this election, with our fundamental freedoms on the line.

  • Existential threats to our democracy that voters identify include extremism, overturning of Roe v. Wade, political violence, election deniers overturning elections, and the corrupting influence of money in politics.

Recent polls show “threats to democracy” as top issue

NBC and CBS found “threats to democracy” the top issue for voters, with the CBS poll showing voters of both parties attributing the threat to the influence of money in politics.

  • NBC News poll: The September NBC News poll showed that the most important issue facing the country was “threats to democracy.” And 40% of voters favored Democrats for protecting democracy compared to 33% favoring Republicans.

  • This followed the August NBC News poll that found “threats to democracy” has overtaken the “cost of living” as the most important issue facing the country.

  • CBS News poll: The September CBS poll showed that “voters are engaged because they think the stakes are so high — for many, bigger than just affecting their pocketbooks. Two-thirds (68% of voters) feel their rights and freedoms are very much at stake in this election — more so even than say their financial well being is.”

  • This followed an August CBS News poll that found 72% of Americans think democracy is under threat; 86% of those attributed it to money corrupting our system, which was the top answer among Democrats and Republicans.

  • CBS reported, “perhaps related to that influence of money, there’s still a sizable number who see a threat that seems to stem from a feeling of a lack of efficacy or agency: the idea that ‘most people don’t have a say.’”

Grinnell College and Quinnipiac University also found threats to democracy a top issue.

  • A Grinnell College National Poll found four in five likely voters believe the overall health of American democracy is a major factor in determining how they will vote in the upcoming election. It was the leading issue among voters overall, Democrats, and independents.

  • Quinnipiac: A September poll found that 74% of voters think American democracy is under threat.

Navigator and Reuters found voters concerned about MAGA Republican extremism threatening democracy, including attempts to overturn elections, supporting political violence and giving corporations special treatment.

  • Navigator Research: A September poll found 70% of independent voters are concerned about the possibility of throwing out election results if Republicans take power and 69% of voters are concerned about special treatment for corporations if the GOP takes control.

  • This was followed by another September Navigator poll, which found voters believe the top threats that Republicans pose to the country are banning abortion, dangerous extremism, and support for political violence. Among independents, the top threats are extremism along with putting special interests and big donors ahead of middle and working class Americans. 

  • Reuters: A September poll found 58% of voters think the MAGA movement is a threat to democracy.

Why this is important

Voters are concerned about the growing MAGA extremist movement that seeks to destabilize our democracy.

  • The Republican party has decided to stand by candidates running for Senate, House, governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and state legislatures that have been attacking Americans’ freedom to vote, our reproductive freedoms, and our free and fair elections.

  • Money in politics is also seen as a driving factor. Voters see the impact of dark money groups and Republican billionaires like Peter Theil and Leonard Leo, who have pushed extremist candidates and influenced the Supreme Court that is putting the foundations of our democracy in peril.

Democrats need to hammer home this message

End Citizens United // Let America Vote’s own polling research over the years has shown that protecting democracy and taking on corruption has consistently remained a top issue for voters.

  • Voters know that the system is stacked against them and that’s why it isn’t working for most Americans.

Protecting democracy remains overwhelmingly popular with voters across party and demographic lines and accomplishes a number of key goals:

  • Moves key swing, independent, and undecided voters.

  • Mobilizes base Democrats with a non partisan message.

In a February 2022 poll of Senate and House battleground districts, ECU // LAV found: 

90% of voters or more support:

  • Ending dark money by making all political contributions transparent.

  • Providing more transparency into lobbying fundraising and putting more limits on their power.

  • Modernizing and protecting our voting systems to prevent hacking and disruptions of elections.

An overwhelming majority (75% – 90%) of voters support:

  • Banning members of Congress from buying and selling stocks while they are in office.

  • Preventing partisan politicians from sabotaging or overturning elections, or interfering with or harassing local election officials.

  • Banning political candidates from taking campaign cash from corporate PACs.

  • Protecting everyone’s freedom to vote by ensuring access to the ballot and stopping partisan politicians creating barriers to voting.

Bottom Line

Democracy is on the ballot this November and voters are motivated by the issue. Democrats have a clear contrast they can showcase with voters. Only one party is on the side of protecting our democracy. The Republican party has become the party of extremism and putting corporate and radical special interests ahead of Americans’ interests.