The most important topic for voters? Poll shows economy wins again

Polling Place Vote Here Sign On White Board Near House

Off-Shore Wind and electric vehicles. Abortion and women’s health access. Parental rights in schools and book banning.

And, of course, all that fuss about gas stoves.

There are any number of topics that have taken up some of the political oxygen this voting season. But in the end, the tried-and-true voting yardstick remained undefeated: How will the candidate impact my wallet?

According to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, New Jersey voters said taxes and the economy were their biggest concerns this fall, far ahead of the items in the national culture wars.

What voters view as most important varies greatly, but a plurality – a combined 40 percent – volunteer something related to fiscal issues: 18 percent cite the economy, 16 percent say taxes, including property taxes, and six percent cite something about cost of living and affordability.

“At the end of the day, New Jersey voters will always be concerned with pocketbook issues first and foremost,” Ashley Koning, the director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers, said.

“The culture wars redux we have seen this election cycle may sound nice in soundbites and mailers and may galvanize some in each party’s base and persuade some in the middle, but Democrats, Republicans and independents alike say they are most concerned about the economy, cost of living and taxes – and plan to vote with these issues in mind.”

Meanwhile, only 11 percent mentioned something about the importance of candidate partisanship or ideology, while nine percent mentioned something about the candidate’s character, honesty and integrity.

As for the issues that been at the forefront this election cycle, only 6% cited something about abortion and reproductive issues as most important to their vote, only 3% mentioned education and only 2% mentioned issues around gun ownership.

Of course, this should be a surprise. Affordability nearly sunk Murphy when he ran for a second term, Koning said.

“Let’s not forget that these fiscal issues almost cost Gov. Murphy reelection in 2021, and they will no doubt be near the top of voters’ minds as they cast their ballots on Election Day,” she said. “Voters in these kinds of low-turnout, low-interest elections grasp at the few pieces of information they know– like their own finances, partisanship, and ideology – when voting, especially when they may not be familiar with the candidates themselves or their platforms.”