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Renters Are Fed Up With Rising Rents—Could Their Frustration Affect the Midterm Elections?

By Clare Trapasso | Oct 28, 2022

Rents are rising—and renters are poised to take out their frustrations in the midterm elections.

More than half of renters registered to vote say that housing will be a key issue for them in the midterms next month, according to a recent Apartment List report. The rentals website recently surveyed more than 8,200 registered voters to come up with its findings.

Rents are up about 23.4% since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, according to the rentals website. And while annual price growth has been slowing down, it’s still more expensive to rent an apartment today. Just under half of renters say those rising housing costs have hurt their families in the past year.

“The renter voting bloc is a massive, under-represented, and under-mobilized group that, at this particular point in history, is facing huge economic challenges that have yet to be properly addressed by either political party,” says Rob Warnock, a senior research associate at Apartment List who co-wrote the report. “Housing affordability and rent inflation are the largest economic issues facing renters today.”

However, renters don’t tend to show up at the polls in the same numbers as homeowners, even though they represent more than a third of the population. About 61% of renters plan to vote in the elections next month—compared with about 80% of homeowners.

Renters don’t tend to vote as much as homeowners often because they’re not eligible to do so, according to the report. They’re more likely not to be U.S. citizens or not yet old enough to vote. They also don’t have as much incentive to cast their ballots, the report says. They’re not as invested as homeowners are in local politics (which can affect property values), and they might not be able to afford to take the time off work to go to a polling site. Plus, they tend to move around more, according to the survey.

Only about 40% of eligible renters voted in the midterm elections of 2018. Meanwhile, about 59% of homeowners cast their ballots in those elections.

In 2020, renters overwhelmingly voted for Democrats.

“Given their extreme skew toward Democrats, increased turnout among renters has the potential to significantly alter the outcomes of elections,” the report read. “If voter turnout among renters had matched that of homeowners in the 2016 elections, Hilary Clinton would have beat former President Trump handily, and Democrats would have likely won additional seats in both the House and Senate.”

Renters supported President Joe Biden as well as Democrats running for the House of Representatives. But that could change in this election as high rents, yo-yoing gas prices, and soaring inflation have eaten at way at the budgets of renters.

“Over the past two years—during which Democrats have controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress—housing affordability has been eroding at a historically fast pace,” the report continued. “This could create an opening for Republicans to speak to renters who may feel disenchanted by the idea that Democrats are serving their needs.”

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