Jan 1, 2022 - Politics & Policy

What we're watching in 2022

Illustration of the year 2022 with an eye in a magnifying glass in place of the zero.

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

The pandemic that never seems to end will likely dominate our attention in 2022, along with President Biden's struggling agenda and Donald Trump's continuing hold over the GOP.

  • Here’s what else Axios’ newsletter authors and expert reporters will be watching — from interest rates to Big Tech scrutiny to whether last year's climate pledges will lead to meaningful action this year. (Sign up for their newsletters here.)

Politics: One year after Jan. 6, and as redistricting resets the board, Donald Trump’s loyalty tests could fracture or radicalize the GOP. Meanwhile, Democrats’ inability to modify the filibuster or enact voting rights protections — along with their own fractures and President Biden's sinking approval ratings — could exile them from power come November. — Margaret Talev

Business: The big story of the year is going to be interest rates, both nominal and real. How far will the Fed hike rates — and how negative will rates remain once you adjust for inflation? If inflation remains high, even a series of rate hikes will leave real rates deep in negative territory, reinforcing the impression that all central banks are dovish these days. — Felix Salmon

Tech: Big Tech is likely to continue to come under pressure from regulators and lawmakers around the globe, as well as continued internal pressure from workers who want to see their employers do better. Once again, a gridlocked Congress means that states and Europe are likely to take the lead on the legislative front. — Ina Fried

Media: The media and entertainment sectors continued to see a high volume of consolidation in 2021, pegged to the rise of streaming. In 2022, we'll be looking at how those deals will shape the streaming ecosystem. Most notably, we'll be watching the formation of a new media giant through the combination of Discovery and WarnerMedia. — Sara Fischer

Work: Companies spent 2021 trying to figure out what hybrid work would look like after the pandemic, but new variants keep foiling their plans to bring people back into offices. Now, they’re hoping 2022 will be the year we finally settle into our post-COVID working world — and how that shakes out will affect everything from how downtowns recover to the way we get around. — Erica Pandey

Health care: As Omicron spreads worldwide, global vaccination rates will take on new urgency. However, with improving vaccination rates and the development of new anti-viral treatments, it's still possible the pandemic will reach an "endemic" level of disease — meaning the population has gained some immunity, but the virus continues to circulate and cause more localized outbreaks. — Tina Reed

Energy: Be on the lookout for progress, or lack thereof, in turning climate pledges into action. The Glasgow summit capped a year heavy on new emissions-cutting commitments, but big steps to transform them into reality are less certain. We'll also be watching emerging science as crucial new IPCC reports roll out, and will track unrelenting extreme weather and climate events. — Ben Geman and Andrew Freedman

Local: Cities across the U.S. will see continued transformation in response to the pandemic and other crises, such as climate change. Lagging foot traffic in downtowns and lingering staffing shortages could forever change how local business is done. Meanwhile, a greater emphasis on public transit and electric vehicles could reshape how we get from point A to B. — Emma Way

World: 2022 will be a year of seismic elections. In France, President Emmanuel Macron hopes to fend off the far right, while in Brazil, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro is fighting for survival. Term limits mean new presidents will be elected in South Korea, Colombia, the Philippines and Kenya — all before Americans go to the polls for the midterm elections in November. — Dave Lawler

China: 2021 saw the entrenchment of deep animosity between the U.S. and China — and a growing chill in relations between China and European nations. In 2022, will Beijing and Washington be able to find a sustainable, peaceful way to manage their differences, or will the world become locked into another great power struggle? — Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

Race and justice: The 2022 midterms are expected to focus on rising crime in cities, ongoing criminal justice reform and voting rights. Conservatives have signaled they'll use diversity lessons in classrooms and the quest for police reforms as wedge issues. But newly energized voters of color, a growing electorate in the U.S., may stop this backlash — if they get to the ballot box. — Russell Contreras

Space: The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope marks a new era for space science. We'll be watching for early results from the mission along with findings from several other new probes headed to the Moon, asteroids, Jupiter and more. — Miriam Kramer and Alison Snyder

Gaming: Big console and PC game publishers face a pivotal 2022, as the industry’s ocean liners try to tack in a direction that can offset the swelling cost of making blockbuster games. We’ll see more famous game franchises pop up on mobile, and we just might learn whether the $2 billion + invested in the controversial and unproven NFT gaming sector is a boom leading to a bust. — Stephen Totilo

Sports: This year's most important story will be the evolution of the college sports model. Last year brought the long-awaited change that allows student athletes to earn money on their name, image and likeness. How that industry grows and impacts recruiting, particularly as the NCAA hands over more governing responsibility to its conferences, will be fascinating to watch. — Jeff Tracy

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