Issues of Influence: The Economy is Hot; Religious Freedom and Environment Are Not

With midterm voting already in progress in some states and the Nov. 8 election just three weeks away, a new report from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University provides new insights into the influence of numerous issues on the voting choices of the public. The survey results provide encouraging news for Republican candidates.

Not surprisingly, the most influential issues relate to the economy. Topping the list are inflation and the rising cost of living, listed as having “a lot of influence” on their votes by 61%. Food prices and shortages were identified by 60%, and oil and gasoline policies and prices were named by roughly six out of 10 adults, at 58%. Yet another economic issue—jobs and unemployment—was rated as the eighth most-influential issue (45%).

That trio of highly rated economic issues—inflation, food prices, and gas prices—are the only three issues out of more than 20 evaluated to which a majority of the adult population assigns “a lot” of influence on their voting decisions.

Shades of “It’s the economy, stupid!”—the famous rejoinder from the 1992 Clinton election season to recognize the importance of “pocketbook issues” to the American people.

According to the America’s Values Study, the other three issues in the top six were crime, policing, and personal safety, chosen as a highly influential issue by half of all adults (50%). Also mentioned were the cost, quality, and availability of health insurance and health care, named by 47% of voting-eligible adults, and protection against terrorism (also at 47%).

The five issues among the 21 tested that emerged as the least likely to have “a lot” of influence were policies related to foreign relations, military and defense (barely one-third—34%—named this as having a lot of influence on their voting decisions); religious freedom (36%); environmental policies (also 36%); government size, authority, and performance (36%); and income inequality and redistribution (37%).

The lowest rankings change slightly when the issues are rated on the basis of a “net influence” score, derived by subtracting the proportion of respondents who said the issue would have “not much” or “no influence” from the percentage who attributed “a lot” of influence to the issue. Specifically, religious freedom drops to the least-influential issue, and environmental policy is barely ahead of it in influence. The net ratings also indicate that the issue of income inequality and redistribution loses some of its already-low standing, as well.

Top Issues Vary by Segment

The survey revealed that different segments of the population are moved by divergent issues. Those distinctions point out how complex American society has become, making the ability to achieve consensus in governance a significant challenge.

Issues and Religion

Among the religious segments of the population, the three top-ranked issues—inflation, food prices, and gas prices—were nearly universal. The only exceptions were adults who have a biblical worldview, who ranked food prices and shortages as the fifth most-impactful issue, and people who claim to be theologically liberal ranking gas prices and policies fifth.

Examining the five most-influential issues among people of various faith perspectives, there were other unique choices:

Religious freedom is a top-five issue only among people with a biblical worldview and those who identify the Bible as their primary source of moral guidance. The latter group was also the only one to include protection against terrorism in their top five.

Racism is a top-five issue only among those who say they are theologically liberal and among adults who do not associate with Christianity. The latter segment was also the only one to include the cost of health insurance and health care in their list.

Theological conservatives were the sole segment to list immigration in their five most influential issues.

Surprisingly, religious segments such as born-again Christians and people who regularly attend evangelical churches, did not include issues such as abortion, national morals and values, and religious freedom in their top-five lists.

Issues and Politics

The survey explored the impact of issues among more than a dozen subgroups based on political beliefs and behavior. Inflation and food prices/shortages were in the top-five issues for each political segment, regardless of their political ideology or party affiliation.

There was a sharp difference in the views of people on the left and those on the right regarding several issues. Although both sides of the political continuum ranked inflation and food issues in their top five, the other three issues listed by each group differed.

Democrats and liberals placed racism at the top of their list. Both of those segments also included abortion and health insurance/costs in their top five.

It is noteworthy that a large majority of residents of “blue” states identified inflation as their most influential issue.

In contrast, Republicans, conservatives, residents of “red” states, and SAGE Cons (i.e., Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservative Christians) all placed inflation at the top of their issue lists, with food issues and oil prices and policies also on each of their lists. The remaining pair of influential issues varied slightly:

Residents of “red” states rounded out their list with protection against terrorism and crime/policing/personal safety.

SAGE Cons placed religious freedom and immigration in their top five.

Conservatives included government spending and immigration among their most influential issues.

Republicans incorporated crime/policing/safety, government spending, and immigration. (Their list contains an extra issue due to a statistical tie.)

The survey results describe the views of three political segments often characterized as a “swing vote.” Each had some distinctives compared to the more predictable political segments.

People living in so-called “purple” states chose the three consensus issues (inflation, food prices/shortages, gas prices/policies). They filled out their top five with crime/policing/safety, government spending, and protection against terrorism. (They had two extra issues on the list due to a three-way tie for fifth place.)

Beyond the trio of consensus issues, ideological moderates added crime/policing/safety and the cost of health insurance and health care to their major influences.

Independent voters—those who are not affiliated with a political party—included crime/policing/safety and government spending to the three consensus issues to round out their list.

Issues and Demographics

Although there is the same trio of consensus issues across age groups and ethnic groups in concerns about inflation, food problems, and gas prices, there are significant differences in issues of influence across several demographic categories. Two additional issues have substantial influence among the various age and ethnic segments:

Adults under age 35 were the only ones to list abortion as a major voting influence. Their other highly ranked issues were racism, and health insurance/costs.

Besides the two consensus issues, adults 35 to 49 embraced crime/policing/safety and jobs among their most influential issues.

People 50- to 64-years-old and those 65 or older added crime, health costs, and protection against terrorism to the consensus issues.

Other than the consensus issues, white adults named crime/policing/safety and protection against terrorism as their vote-affecting issues.

In contrast black adults identified racism, poverty/homelessness, and crime/policing/safety as their other top-ranked considerations.

Both Asians and Hispanics incorporated health insurance/costs and crime/policing/safety in their top five.

Black adults stood out for not just including racism as a top-tier issue, but for ranking it as their single, most influential issue of all.

Bad News for Democrats?

According to George Barna, director of the research study, the results bode poorly for Democrats in November.

“Many of the most influential issues in this election are those that highlight publicly perceived failures by the Democrats. The highest-impact issues—specifically, inflation, the cost of food and related shortages, and policies and prices related to gas and oil—all highlight turns for the worse over the past two years, when Democrats have held the White House and both chambers of Congress,” Barna said.

“If historical patterns hold true, voters will hold Democrats responsible for those failures. Some four out of five incumbents in the U.S. House and Senate are typically re-elected. However, there may yet be substantial change in the two federal legislative bodies given the confluence of anger with the condition of America, the historical tendency to replace the prevailing party in mid-term elections, the unusually large number of incumbents not seeking re-election, and the fact that the issues of greatest importance to voters underscore public dissatisfaction with Democrat rule,” he said.

Barna also noted that the issues of greatest concern to Americans now address personal rather than common-good interests.

“Issues such as mental health policies, poverty, the quality of public schools, national morals and values, and unifying the nation are more about the common good than self-interest,” the veteran researcher commented. “Even among the most deeply religious Americans, regardless of their faith of choice, a greater emphasis was placed upon the personal impact of governance choices and public policies. That focus on self, to the exclusion of the community, is a reflection of the syncretistic worldview and the decline of spiritual commitment in America.”

About the Research

This report is based upon data from a pair of companion surveys commissioned by AmericasOne that were conducted in July 2022. The first of those surveys, which is the basis of this report, included the responses of a nationally representative sample of 2,275 adults. That survey was administered online and took respondents an average of 21 minutes to complete. The second survey, administered to an online sample of 1,500 respondents, took an average of 22 minutes to complete. The sample for both surveys employed geographic quotas to replicate the population incidence in each of the nine Census divisions.

Reports related to that survey are accessible at

About AmericasOne

AmericasOne is a community of values-driven individuals who are seeking to grow their families and businesses and would like to share their ideas and challenges in a supportive and trusted environment. AmericasOne is committed to equipping and engaging individuals and families who want meaningful, thoughtful reform that puts principles, not politicians, first. Members get the resources needed to advance the cause of freedom, free economic choice, and the core values that make America exceptional.

AmericasOne was founded by Marc Nuttle, a lawyer, author, consultant, and businessman. Nuttle has represented and advised presidents of the United States, leaders of foreign countries, state officials, and corporations. He has worked on government policy and is an expert at understanding, analyzing, and predicting economic and cultural trends. For more information on AmericasOne and the America’s Values research project, visit or visit the AmericasOne Facebook page.

About the Cultural Research Center

The Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University in Glendale, Arizona, conducts the annual American Worldview Inventory, other nationwide surveys regarding cultural transformation, and worldview-related surveys among the ACU student population. The groundbreaking ACU Student Worldview Inventory is administered to every ACU student at the start of each academic year, and a final administration is undertaken among students just prior to their graduation, enabling the University to track and address the worldview development of its students.

CRC is guided by George Barna, Director of Research, and Tracy Munsil, Executive Director. Like Arizona Christian University, CRC embraces biblical Christianity. The Center works in cooperation with a variety of Bible-centric, theologically conservative Christian ministries and remains politically non-partisan. Access to the results from past surveys conducted by CRC and information about the Cultural Research Center is accessible at Further information about Arizona Christian University is available at