The economy is far and away the most important issue to voters, and Democrats’ failure to make a compelling argument on that front sunk them in the midterms, the party's analysis of the 2014 election cycle found.


“This data underscores a deeper problem and is an admonishment to Democrats to use the coming months to fashion, hone, and then campaign on an economic plan,” the analysis, authored by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, reads in part.

“If Democrats fail on this front — even in 2016 with a broader, more diverse, and more progressive electorate — they could well face an election outcome not altogether different from what they just experienced last month.”

The George Washington University Battleground Poll, which served as a basis for the Democratic analysis, found that a plurality, 29 percent, believe the economy is the most important issue facing the new Congress. That’s a nearly two-to-one advantage over immigration, the next closest issue.

A strong majority, 77 percent, said they’re at least somewhat worried about current economic conditions. Voters in the middle class are the most pessimistic group on the direction of the economy.

“Two years into Obama’s second term, the American public is worried and highly pessimistic about the state of the economy and the prospects of improvement for the next generation,” said Christopher Arterton, the director of the GW poll. “When the new Congress convenes in January, voters want the politicians in Washington to address this issue above all.”

The analysis found that Democrats focused too much on “piecemeal policy proposals” like the minimum wage and equal pay for women, which “struck voters as falling well short of the level of change necessary to set our country and our economy back on track.”

Some Democrats are already taking this message to heart.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (D-N.Y.) said last month that Democrats blew it when they came into power in 2008 by spending all of their political capital on healthcare instead of measures to help the middle class.

And this week, groups on the left launched an effort to draft Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren overtakes Biden in Iowa for first time: poll Warren avoids attacks while building momentum Sanders unveils plan to eliminate Americans' medical debt MORE (D-Mass.) for president, believing her message of economic populism is what’s missing in the Democratic Party.

“Tell me who is ahead on the economy in 2016 and I’ll tell you who is going to be president,” Lake said at a Christian Science Monitor event on Thursday.

Some political watchers are doubtful that Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonUkrainian official denies Trump pressured president The Memo: 'Whistleblower' furor gains steam Missing piece to the Ukraine puzzle: State Department's overture to Rudy Giuliani MORE, with her close ties to Wall Street and lucrative public speaking gigs, is well-suited to be the party’s standard bearer on pocketbook issues.

But Lake argued that if Democrats can fashion the right message, polling shows voters are on board with the core tenet of liberalism: that the government exists “to help Americans overcome challenges that would otherwise be insurmountable.”

“The error of the Democratic Party may not be in standing for an active federal government, but instead failing to articulate that role with specificity and in ways that relate directly to both the country’s and individual voters’ needs and priorities,” Lake wrote.

Fifty-two percent of voters said the government should do more to solve problems and meet the needs of people; 48 percent said the best thing the government can do for the economy is to not meddle in the markets.

“Far from running away from their vision of government, Democrats should embrace it and — without getting lost in abstract discussions of process — make their case for a government that is active, engaged, and accountable in its efforts to put ordinary people first and to restore the promise of the American Dream,” the analysis said.

“Once Republicans take control of both Houses of Congress in the New Year, the pressure on Democrats to unify and offer a bold economic plan for the country will only increase.”

Republicans swept into power in the midterm elections, picking up 13 seats in the House and gaining their largest majority since World War II, while picking up a solid majority in the Senate.