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Poll: What should the Republican House prioritize during the next session?

There’s some agreement between voters of all parties, but the GOP is also interested in investigating the border and Hunter Biden.

SHARE Poll: What should the Republican House prioritize during the next session?
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Michelle Budge, Deseret News

If you think voters don’t agree on much these days, you’re not paying attention to complaints about what’s going on with family budgets. It turns out, everyone — Republicans, Democrats and independents — wants Congress to fight high costs.

In January, when Republicans take control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 2018, a broad cross-section of voters want them to focus on working with Democrats to fight the factors driving an increase in the cost of living, according to a new national poll conducted by HarrisX for the Deseret News. 

When we asked voters what they would choose as the top three priorities for members of Congress to tackle, their to-do list for lawmakers included lowering gas and energy prices, fighting inflation by cutting costs and fighting inflation through bipartisan policies. About 1 in 4 voters chose each of those issues as one of their top priorities. 

Congressional leaders have their work cut out for them when it comes to corralling members of Congress into passing legislation. As of the latest counts, Republicans ended up with 222 seats in the House to Democrats’ 213 — a slim majority made more complicated by battles within the GOP over who will be speaker. While current GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy still looks like the likeliest candidate, several more conservative representatives have said they won’t vote for him. 

But voters are unlikely to have much patience for inter-party squabbling. After months of high prices on things like food, gas and clothing, they want Congress to act. 

“The top priority for the next Congress is tackling inflation and cost of living,” said Dritan Nesho, CEO of HarrisX. “These imperatives far outweigh the rest of the issues facing the country.”

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But beyond the pocketbook issues that voters coalesced around, Republican and Democratic voters have very different ideas about what issues Congress should be tackling. 

The Deseret News/HarrisX poll shows 34% of Republican voters would like to see the House investigate the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, and 22% favor an investigation of Hunter Biden. Another 19% want the House to repeal the $80 billion in extra funds appropriated for the IRS in legislation passed by Democrats in August. 

“American voters love investigating despite what they say,” said Nesho. “They want the new House to launch an array of investigations especially around illegal immigration.” 

But for Democratic voters, the top three issues — besides tackling inflation and high energy costs — are gun control, chosen by 40% of Democratic respondents, abortion access at 27% and climate change, chosen by 26%. 

Those issues are unlikely to get much attention with Republicans in charge, but with margins as close as they are, there may be some room for bipartisan action.

Beyond party affiliation, women were much more likely than men to choose gun control as a priority. While 34% of women picked that option — their highest priority on the list — only 20% of men did. Men were generally more likely to favor investigations on a variety of issues — while 6% of men said they wanted the House to investigate whether tech companies are censoring political speech, only 2% of women said the same. The highest priority chosen by men was lowering gas and energy prices, which also ranked high for women.

Fighting crime and drugs was chosen by 23% of 18 to 35 year olds, making it one of their top three priorities for the House. Older Americans — those 65 years or older — were much more likely to choose tackling high energy costs and inflation, with 33% listing the former and 32% the latter as among their top priorities. Fighting high energy costs was also the top priority for voters in the Northeast and for voters without a college education. The top priority for college educated voters was gun control.

Before the midterm elections, McCarthy said he hoped to tackle inflation, secure the border and fight crime. He also outlined plans to launch several investigations, including into the Biden Administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and the origins of COVID-19.

Neither of those investigations ranked high among voters’ priorities on the Deseret News/HarrisX poll. Only 4% of voters said one of their top priorities was an investigation into the origins of COVID-19, while only 3% chose an investigation into the U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In a podcast recorded before the midterms, New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who was recently elected to lead Democrats in the House, said his priorities include expanding union organizing and affordable housing.