Native Americans support Democrats over Republicans in House and Senate races

The 2022 Midterm Election Survey, conducted by the African American Research Collaborative (AARC), has a nationally representative sample of Native American voters (n=500) that ensures Native American voters are included in the discussions about the 2022 election. This article summarizes the main poll results specific to Native American voters.

Native Americans remained solidly Democratic in their voting preferences in 2022, although slightly lower than what we saw in 2020. In home races across the country, Native Americans backed Democratic candidates 56% to 40 % of Native Americans who said they voted Republican. There was a slight decrease in the Democratic vote percentage (-4%) compared to the Democratic vote share of 60% in 2020 and (-5%) compared to the Democratic vote of 61% in 2018. There was a similar percentage of Native American voters who voted for the Democrats in the U.S. Senate races. This modest shift in voting behavior is consistent with the historic move away from the incumbent party in off-year elections and was not significant enough to help materialize a red wave in 2022.

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Native American voters were more likely to vote for Republican candidates than black, Asian American or Latino voters, but were 15% less likely to do so than white voters in 2022, making Native American voters part of the coalition of voters that helped undermine the potential red wave in 2022.

Off-year elections are often referendums on the incumbent president and his party. When we look at the differences in opinions toward President Biden, it helps explain why Native American voters were more balanced in their voting choice in 2022 than other communities of color. When it comes to presidential approval, although Native American voters approve of the work President Biden is doing at a higher rate than white voters (+11%), they were more likely to disapprove than voters from other communities. of color – 47% among Native American voters.

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In an election where reproductive health and abortion were a central issue, one would expect potential differences in voting behavior based on gender, and that was certainly the case for Native American voters in 2022. Native American women were more likely (+12%) to vote Democrat compared to Native American men, with 61% of Native American women indicating they voted for a Democrat in their US House race. Native American women were motivated to protect reproductive health rights following the Dobbs decision, as 16% of women in the sample said reproductive health and abortion was the most important issue that motivated their voting decision for Congress. Among Native American women, it only slightly trailed inflation and the cost of living as the most important issue in 2022, and women were twice as likely as Native American men to identify the right to abortion. as their dominant problem.

The large and growing urban Indian population has a unique set of priorities and challenges compared to more rural community members who may live on or near their tribal lands. Twenty-four percent of Native American voters in the sample live in urban areas, with Native Americans who live in these areas being 14% more likely to support Democratic candidates.

Finally, when it comes to partisanship, 44% of Native American voters said they were registered Democrats, compared to 32% who identified as Republicans and 23% as independents. Partisanship had a marked impact on Native American voting behavior in 2022. Almost all (98%) of self-identified Native American Democrats supported Democratic House candidates. As in 2020, partisan independents split for Democrats in 2022, with 46% of independents backing Democratic House candidates versus 37% who voted for Republicans. Only 7% of Native American Republicans voted against their party and supported Democratic candidates.

Native American voters continue to receive less attention from mainstream parties

One of the 2018 themes regarding the Native American electorate was investing in engaging Native American voters. The 2022 survey finds Native Americans were less likely to be contacted by a candidate, party or civic organization than other communities of color. As shown in the figure below, only 42% of Native American voters reported contact during the 2022 campaign, compared to 51% of Latino voters and 56% of African American voters. While this is low for all of these groups given that they are the most likely to appear on candidate and party contact lists, it reminds us that without greater investment in tribal communities, we will not see this subgroup of the larger electorate turn out and engage in federal elections at high rates. Native American voters who were contacted were also less likely than all other racial and ethnic groups to report contacts they had received from the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party’s lower awareness levels were not lost on the Native American electorate, as Native American voters were less likely than other communities of color to believe that the Democratic Party “cares a lot about solving issues important to their people.” community” and more likely to believe that the party “doesn’t really care. Although Native American voters are less likely to believe the Republican Party cares a great deal about solving issues important to them than all other racial and ethnic groups except 30% black people, the Democratic Party has not been able to capitalize on this opportunity in 2022. Native American voters are less likely to believe that either party is truly committed to advancing their issues and priorities. This should be a wake-up call for both sides and a reminder that Native American communities continue to feel underrepresented in federal campaigns.

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Political priorities and views of major parties and political figures

Native Americans have faced tremendous financial challenges over the past year, including disproportionately high unemployment rates that at one point were nearly three times the national average. It’s no surprise, then, that when asked to identify the most important policy issues that drove their vote in Congress in 2022, the most common response among Native Americans was jobs and inflation ( 18%). Behind inflation and jobs were abortion and reproductive health at 12%.

The 2022 midterm election poll has several policy questions specific to the Native American population. The survey reveals that Native American voters have a political context unique to their communities that influences their voting decisions. A large majority (78%) of Native American voters believe the federal government has not honored treaties signed with Native Americans and that the government should return stolen land to Native American tribes.

Native American voters also support political interventions aimed at addressing injustices suffered by their communities. This includes 82% of Native American voters who think the federal government should pay reparations or money to Native Americans who were victims of residential schools to compensate for the harm they suffered. It’s an issue that Interior Secretary Haaland has made a priority, including launching an investigation into federal boarding schools. The majority of Native Americans (83%) also believe they should receive free tuition to attend state colleges. It has become a growing issue across the country to deal with the fact that many universities are being built on land stolen from tribes.

All in all, Native Americans form a unique and complex electorate, for whom current issues such as inflation, abortion and reproductive health are priority issues. Colonization and injustices such as land theft and boarding schools are also important issues for this electorate, but they are routinely overlooked in political campaigns. This unique data from the 2022 Midterm Election Poll indicates that a large majority of Native Americans remain solidly Democratic in their voting preferences. But both parties should pay close attention to the results of this survey if they are wise, as the survey helps clarify that Native American voters are a critical subgroup of the national electorate that can have a marked impact on election results across the country.

Nohemi M. Moore