What are we worried about this year?

Monday, November 7, 2022

There’s no time like election eve to gauge what people are worried about. Here we are, the day before Election Day 2022, and Coronavirus has dropped off the radar. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if it was ever on the radar. Looking back at the last three election years, the economy was always in the top five. Coronavirus only made the top five in 2020. Barely.

The last three elections are interesting because in November 2018 no one was worried about Coronavirus, in November 2020 we still weren’t sure how worried to be, and today, in November 2022, we are worried about inflation, interest rates, and gas prices. Here are the ten top concerns of Americans in the last three election years–looking at voters overall, rather than by party. I used the Pew Research Center for purposes of comparison.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018. Supreme Court appointments, health care, economy, gun policy, Medicare, Social Security, taxes, immigration, Treatment of racial & ethnic minorities, environment. Just below the top ten, we have terrorism, Federal budget deficit, and trade policy. Despite the headlines, abortion is 14th on the priority list.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Economy, healthcare, Supreme Court appointments, the Coronavirus outbreak, violent crime, foreign policy, gun policy, race & ethnic inequality, immigration, economic inequality. Just below the top ten: climate change and abortion.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022. Economy, The future of democracy in the country, education, health care, energy policy, violent crime, policies about how elections and voting work in the country, gun policy, abortion, Supreme Court appointments. A little further down, we see immigration, foreign policy, and climate change.

Note: terrorism and the Federal budget deficit are long gone from our worry list.

The Coronavirus outbreak ranks 18th this year, with only 23% of the voters considering it important to their vote. This makes sense if you consider the pandemic in a narrow sense, like, “Am I more worried about the price of gas today than I am about catching COVID?” But in the last 2 1/2 years, the pandemic, and our response to it, has had a ripple effect throughout the economy. The concern about the economy today is on a different scale than before. For example, a recent Gallup Poll shows 46% of Americans think the economy is our most important problem. The last time it ranked that high was in 2014. In the last two election years, it was actually below 20%.

This increase in concern about the economy is largely due to the coronavirus, in my opinion. Note the Gallup poll increase since 2020.

Here are a few of of COVID’s effects on the economy in the United States. We are just beginning to recognize the repercussions of this pandemic around the globe.

  1. 90,000 restaurant locations temporarily or permanently closed down in the U.S. Restaurants that are open have had to reduce the hours they are opened by an average of 7.5% or 6.4 hours a week due to staffing shortages.
  2. The performing arts industry is trying to come back after having to stay closed for months or even a year during the pandemic. Audiences have not come back and average ticket sales are 75% of pre-pandemic norms.
  3. Thousands of public school students lost months of classroom learning. More than 1 in 360 American children lost a parent or caregiver from COVID-19. Teacher shortages, which were a problem before the pandemic, have gotten worse. Some states have programs to bypass certification requirements, and a growing number of community colleges are offering evening classes as a path to a teaching career.
  4. Nursing shortages are another pre-pandemic issue which COVID has made even worse. Teaching staff for nursing programs has also been impacted. Health care losses in general have hit women’s jobs than men’s, and the number of women in health care has not yet reached pre-pandemic numbers.

This is only a small sample of sectors affected by the pandemic. When you consider housing, construction, trucking, supply chains in general, energy, food production, etc. the impact on the economy is enormous. Some of the economic changes were already underway before COVID–such as the decline of malls and the teacher and nursing shortage. Others started with the pandemic, such as the effect on students or the theater. The economy / pandemic relationship is more than I can untangle today.

But it will be affecting voting for years to come. Just not under the name COVID.

Today’s Notable Headlines

“Researcher Finds ‘No News is Bad News’ When it Comes to COVID-19 and Consumer Dining Behavior,” UConn Today, Oct. 31, 2022. https://today.uconn.edu/2022/10/researcher-finds-no-news-is-bad-news-when-it-comes-to-covid-19-and-consumer-dining-behavior/#

“Restaurant operating hours are still shorter compared to 2019, report finds,” CNBC, Oct. 27, 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/2022/10/27/restaurant-operating-hours-are-still-shorter-compared-to-2019.html

“Regional theaters struggle to recover from COVID closures,” Marketplace, Oct. 31, 2022. https://www.marketplace.org/2022/10/31/regional-theaters-struggle-to-recover-from-covid-closures/

“The alarming state of the American student in 2022,” Brookings, Nov. 1, 2022. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2022/11/01/the-alarming-state-of-the-american-student-in-2022/

“To fill teacher jobs, community colleges offer new degrees,” AP News, Oct. 6, 2022. https://apnews.com/article/community-college-degrees-teacher-jobs-57283c520ff7f21cacc90fcb25a63053

“With teachers in short supply, states ease job requirements,” ABC13 Eyewitness News, Oct. 14, 2022. https://abc13.com/teacher-shortage-schools-easing-requirements-education/12328133/

Other Sources

“Voter Enthusiasm at Record High in Nationalized Midterm Environment,” Pew Research Center, Sept. 26, 2018. https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/09/26/voter-enthusiasm-at-record-high-in-nationalized-midterm-environment/#top-issues-for-voters-supreme-court-health-care-economy

” Important issues in the 2020 election,” Pew Research Center, August 13, 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2020/08/13/important-issues-in-the-2020-election/

“Key facts about U.S. voter priorities ahead of the 2022 midterm elections,” Pew Research Center, Nov. 3, 2022. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/11/03/key-facts-about-u-s-voter-priorities-ahead-of-the-2022-midterm-elections/

Why am I doing this?

The coronavirus pandemic is a classic watershed historical event. People will be referring to “before the pandemic” or “after the pandemic” for decades to come. Since March 11, 2020, this blog has examined the modern pandemic experience, drawing on my background as a medical technologist, a historian, and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary world crisis. My sources, both primary and secondary, are documented with links for easy reference.

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