Midterm elections 2022: Here are the issues North Dakota voters care about the most

As the country inches closer to Election Day, voters are honing in on issues that may decide the fate of Congress and several state governments in November.

The Washington Examiner is tracking which issues are on the top of voters’ minds as they prepare to head to the polls, particularly in key battleground states that could bring a shift in power to the federal government. Specifically, we’re tracking how voters are researching our top five issues — abortion, crime, education, inflation, and taxes — and how these interests fluctuate as we get closer to Election Day.

MIDTERMS 2022: TRACKING THE ISSUES THAT MATTER TO VOTERS AHEAD OF ELECTION DAY

Below, you can track the interest in North Dakota in each of our key issues on a rolling 30-day basis. The Washington Examiner will be updating this page as interests and voting concerns change.

Key races we’re watching in the state: 

North Dakota has a handful of races up and down the ballot ranging from the governor and attorney general to some key House races.

The race for North Dakota’s lone House seat has garnered national headlines in recent weeks after the Democratic candidate dropped out of the race against incumbent Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), leaving open a pathway for the Republican to cruise to reelection. However, that pathway has been made less certain after independent candidate Cara Mund qualified for the ballot in mid-September.

Although she’s not a Democrat, a win for Mund in her quest to unseat Armstrong would be seen as a victory for Democrats as the party seeks to maintain its majority in the House come November. However, Mund faces an uphill battle as the seat has been held by a GOP member since 2011.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) is seeking to fend off a challenge from Democratic opponent Katrina Christiansen (D-ND), with the race expected to lean in the incumbent’s favor. Lower down the ballot, Republican Michael Howe is running uncontested for North Dakota’s secretary of state.

Education 

Education emerged as the top-researched issue among North Dakota voters in mid-September and alternated with crime as the No. 1 priority as the weeks stretched into mid-October, according to internet searches recorded and analyzed by Google Trends.

Searches related to education spiked several times over the last month, mirroring nationwide trends that saw the issue receive renewed interest in August and September — likely coinciding with the beginning of the school year. Other spikes in interest may be due in part to the announcement of President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program on Aug. 24.

The move was met with mixed reactions from residents in North Dakota, where the average student loan borrower owes about $29,000 — lower than almost every other state.

Crime

Crime emerged as a top issue among North Dakotans over the last month, spiking several times and competing with education as the No. 1 issue.

The issue of crime has become a focal point of the North Dakota Senate race as candidates have offered different solutions to the state’s rising crime rate. Candidates have wrestled with how to address gun violence and gun control in the state, with Hoeven decrying moves to limit gun ownership and has instead argued to enforce existing gun laws more harshly.

Christiansen has proposed amending state law that shields gun manufacturers from being held responsible for gun deaths, arguing gunmakers would be incentivized to develop safer firearm technology if they knew they could be held liable.

Abortion

Abortion has also emerged as a top priority among North Dakota voters, coming in as the third most-researched issue as of Oct. 10.

The issue of abortion has taken center stage in the North Dakota House race, possibly threatening Armstrong’s chances of cruising to reelection. Armstrong has campaigned as a staunch anti-abortion advocate against Mund who has painted herself as a champion for abortion access. Democrats have considered Mund to be a potentially strong candidate as the party seeks to use abortion as a way to motivate voters to head to the polls to vote against Republicans.

Abortion has also shaped the state’s Senate race, with Hoeven and Christiansen finding each other on opposite sides of the issue. While Hoeven has expressed support for a federal abortion ban, Christiansen has called for codifying Roe v. Wade into law to ensure nationwide abortion access.

Inflation

Inflation remained one of the lowest-searched topics over the last month, receiving a spike in interest on Sept. 18 and Oct. 2 before falling back to No. 4 as of Oct. 10.

The spikes may have been in response to the release of the consumer price index report showing inflation rates slightly decreased in August, with prices rising 8.3% compared to the year before. The numbers were higher than expected but still a decline from July’s numbers, which showed an 8.5% increase.

Republicans have long focused on inflation as a key voter concern in the midterm election cycle, pointing to soaring inflation rates under Biden. However, the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, a healthcare, tax, and climate spending plan, gave the Democrats a response to voters’ concerns and forced Republicans to formulate new strategies.

Taxes

The issue of taxes had varied interest among North Dakota voters over the last month, spiking only a handful of times in late September and early October. Internet searches related to taxes spiked on Sept. 21, 25, and Oct. 4 in tandem with increased interest in education — likely having to do with Biden’s student loan forgiveness program.

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The forgiveness plan described parameters for who would be eligible for student loan cancellation, noting borrowers will need to earn under $125,000 individually or $250,000 as a household.

The rise in tax-related internet searches in relation to student loan forgiveness comes after some states announced that borrowers may be taxed. North Dakota is one of the states that has announced it will exempt borrowers from paying taxes on their loan forgiveness.

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