As Republicans and Democrats across the country race toward election day, pollsters, pundits, and Twitter denizens search for indicators of who will win.

One major question which has loomed large over the past several election cycles is which party will win the suburbs. As Democrats continue to dominate urban areas and Republicans maintain their grip on rural voters, America’s suburbs have become the ultimate electoral battleground. The suburbs remain split with both parties retaining less than 50 percent consistent support and regular swings across the country. Republicans are now shifting tactics away from soft language and talking points towards increasingly firm rhetoric on fighting crime.

Both Republicans and Democrats have recognized the importance of winning this battleground in upcoming elections. Democrat political strategist and former Clinton Senior Advisor, Doug Sosnik published a memo in March, entitled America’s Suburbs: Ground Zero in 21st Century Politics in which he writes, “With urban areas increasingly voting for Democrats and rural areas overwhelmingly supporting Republicans, the suburbs are the last remaining competitive areas left in the country.”

He further explains, “In the last two presidential elections the same five states –Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin – determined the outcome. In all five of these states, the suburban vote was decisive.” How the suburbs will vote remains a concern for both parties.

During Trump’s 2020 re-election bid, the GOP focused on criminal justice reform far more than on  “tough on crime” rhetoric. However, this cycle has seen a shift in Republican messaging. Along with the ever-present talking points on inflation, Republicans are talking about and releasing ads on stopping crime. The NRCC’s recent ad, released on October 9th is one of many in that mold.


This trend marks a shift from some previous campaigns and may make Republican candidates more competitive in the suburbs, as well as with their base voters . A recent Quinnipiac Poll of likely voters in New York state showed that 28 percent of voters rank crime as the most urgent issue facing their state. Among Independents, it was the top issue for 31 percent of voters. Crime topped inflation as a top issue by 8 percent to rank as the highest priority for New York’s likely voters.

In the nationwide Harvard Harris poll conducted between  October 12 and 13th, 95 percent of respondents ranked crime as an important issue affecting their vote. Inflation took the number one spot by only 1 percent. On both issues, respondents indicated that their concerns made them more likely to vote Republican than Democrat by over 10 points. While polls are not always accurate in predicting the outcome of elections, these polls indicate that crime is top of mind, along with inflation, for voters across the nation. 

Suburban voters remain decisive in nationwide electoral victory. With both parties vying for the upper hand, creating clear distinctions on issues that matter to voters will be the key to victory. During last year’s gubernatorial election in Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin was able to create this distinction on the issue of education after McAullife’s now famous debate stage gaffe.The October 25th gubernatorial debate in New York featured a similarly dismissive line from Democrat Kathy Hochul on crime. 


Hochul’s response illustrates the failure of many prominent Democratic candidates to take this issue seriously as they campaign this year. In a recent MSNBC interview with Al Sharpton, she doubled down on this, calling Republican messaging on crime a “conspiracy” to manipulate voters. As voters head to the polls, many will be considering this issue and looking to align with the candidate and party that take their top concerns seriously. Nowhere is this desire to find distinction more true than among suburban swing voters. 

Inflation is an issue recognized by candidates from both parties and a pervasive topic of messaging – and action – on both sides of the aisle. Unlike inflation, crime is not being treated as a high priority by Democratic candidates. This lack of attention to a concern among many voters is a wedge Republican candidates are using to attract support across the country. The GOP’s shift in tactic from the criminal justice reform talking points of previous cycles to “tough on crime” rhetoric may be the key to election day victory and the key that unlocks suburban support this week.