What Google search data says about New Jersey voters ahead of midterm elections

In the last two weeks, wages dominated Google’s ranking of the most searched political topics in New Jersey, only edged out by health care on a few occasions.

File photo: Polling place in Deptford, N.J. on primary election day, June 7, 2022. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

File photo: Polling place in Deptford, N.J. on primary election day, June 7, 2022. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

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New Jersey’s midterm races may not be as contentious as those in other states, like the U.S. Senate races in Pennsylvania and Georgia, but there is a lot at stake when voters head to the polls on Nov. 8.

Recent surveys and search engine traffic data agree that, like many Americans, the economy is at the top of mind for most New Jersey voters.

According to a Google Trends search traffic index, New Jersey ranks among the top states for election-related searches. And in the last two weeks, wages dominated Google’s ranking of the most searched political topics in New Jersey, only edged out by health care on a few occasions.

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Abortion, inflation, and social security rounded out the list over the past two weeks.

Google cautions that its data is a measure of voter curiosity, not voter intent.

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Public interest polling in New Jersey

Google’s index found similar results to a recent Eagleton Center For Public Interest Polling survey on New Jersey voters’ priorities this election cycle.

The poll found that when it comes to congressional races, the economy ranked as the number one concern, with 16% of registered voters saying it’s the most important issue. Reproductive and women’s issues ranked second at 9%, followed by taxes and partisan and ideological values, which tied for third at 8%. Inflation came in as the top concern for just 5%.

“When we get down to it, [the economy] usually is the number one issue that voters consider when it’s time to go to the polls,” said Ashley Koning, executive director of the Eagleton Center For Public Interest Polling. “It’s a prime factor…one of the main drivers of voter choice when looking at election cycles, between that and presidential approval ratings.”

According to the poll, independent and Republican voters were more likely to cite the economy as their main concern. At the same time, Democrats were more likely to give reproductive rights top billing.

The survey also suggests that most New Jerseyans think the country is on the wrong track, though most give Democrats the edge in this year’s congressional races.

“I always like to think of New Jersey as almost kind of a microcosm for the country itself,” Koning said. “Because we really do have a lot of those sections of red and blue and are typically a lot more purple…when it comes to our statewide and local elections than we are at the national level.”

District 7 could help determine Congress’s partisan lean

New Jersey has 12 congressional districts. Democrats hold seats in nine districts, while Republicans hold seats in three. Most districts are not expected to flip.

However, many pundits expect Republican nominee Tom Kean to beat out incumbent Democrat Tom Malinowski in New Jersey’s 7th congressional district after it added more Republican strongholds during the latest round of congressional redistricting. Voters in the region supported Republican nominee Jack Ciatterelli during last year’s gubernatorial election.

“It leans Republican just simply because of the changing demographics of the district,” said Micah Rasmussen, executive director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics. “It’s about 40,000 more Republicans in the district now than there were two years ago.”

Kean and Malinowski have participated in three debates where they discussed their plans for some of the issues that matter most to New Jersey voters.

Rasmussen said inflation has been a recurring topic.

“Tom Kean certainly goes after Malinowski, as most Republicans do, for causing a lot of the inflation we are dealing with right now, by excessive government pandemic spending,” Rasmussen said.

“[Malinowski] says, ‘Fine, that is a fair criticism. However, it would have been far worse, if we didn’t act when we did, the economy would have crashed,’” he said.

On abortion, Malinowski supports a person’s right to choose. Kean’s position has been harder to gauge.

“[Kean] says he’s for the sanctity of life. He says he’s for a woman’s right to choose. And he says he’s for reasonable restrictions, and reasonable exemptions for the life of the mother and for rape and incest,” Rasmussen said. “The criticism is that a lot of those positions sound like they’re mutually exclusive.”

An Oct. 17 Axios index of search traffic data shows that people in the 7th congressional district are most interested in jobs, taxes, former President Donald Trump, Ukraine, and China.

NBC News reported that it’s one of about 30 races that could determine which party controls the House of Representatives next January.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the district is also the seventh wealthiest congressional district in the nation.

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