What issues are most important to voters both historically and in 2020?
2020 has been quite the year, but really all of the past four years will be the center of discussion for historians in years to come. The government shut down for the longest period of time in history, California endured the worst wildfires ever, and a U.S. President was impeached for only the third time in history; all of this and more has happened since 2016. Given all that has transpired, what are the voters most concerned about in 2020?
After reviewing multiple reliable polls, for all registered voters (from around the country and of all parties) healthcare and the economy are the top issues.
Polls taken in January of 2020 or before did not have the economy as a top priority for voters, but from February and beyond (around the time the coronavirus began impacting the country) it jumped to the top of the list. Historically, the economy has always been one of the most important issues for voters. In 2016, according to Pew Research, the economy was the issue voters were most concerned about.
Ranking either first or second in issues of importance, healthcare has been consistent among voters as a top priority in 2020. Even polls taken as early as September 2019, way before the coronavirus struck the U.S., healthcare was a topic voters wanted to discuss. Healthcare appeared on the list of top 5 most important issues in all the polls.
Another issue that was often talked about was climate change/the environment. Out of six polls, climate change and the environment ranked in the top five most important issues to all voters four times. This is enlightening because Democrats are typically known for being the group concerned about the environment. But the fact that it is among the most important issues for all voters alludes to the fact that either the majority of voters lean left or climate change has become such a problem that some Republicans are concerned about it too.
Not as popular, but certainly mentioned enough to be recognized are the issues of immigration and terrorism/national security. Both issues made the top five issues for voters three out of six times. For immigration, it is unclear what type of action the voters who chose this topic meant for there to be, but regardless, the topic is clearly important to people.
Considering immigration is the kind of topic that is controversial among parties, it may be a topic that sways voters from one candidate to another in the 2020 election. Terrorism and national security havs previously been a topic of importance to the electorate. In 2016 a Pew Research poll showed terrorism was the second most fervant concern Americans had. National security has been a topic of conversation over the past four years as there have been missiles launched from North Korea aimed to land around the U.S., there was nearly a war with Iran, and tensions between China and the U.S. have been high. Acts of terrorism are also still occuring throughout the country.
In a more partisan, specific breakdown, Democrats polled that their top issue was healthcare. Obama made healthcare more affordable under the Affordable Care Act, which Trump has made drastic changes to, so it is not surprising to see Democrats care so much about healthcare. Biden supporters also polled that healthcare is their top issue. Stereotypically, Democrats have been known for their environmental activism and their efforts to stop climate change. Though climate change/the environment did not rank first in importance in all of the polls like healthcare, it did appear in the top three issues in all polls. Next on the list of concerns for Democrats is gun policy. With the number of mass shootings only increasing, gun violence is an issue that the Democrats feel should be addressed.
As for Republicans, immigration polled in the top three of every survey regarding Republicans’ concerns. Trump supporters also agreed immigration was in the top three of their important issues in 2020. Trump has taken immeasurable steps in reducing illegal immigration, including sending immigrants back to their native country and separating families. Just behind immigration is terrorism/national security, which was also on the general voters’ list of important issues. Surprisingly, healthcare ranked third in Republican’s important issues, despite being known as a Democratic issue. Even pre-coronavirus back in December 2019, healthcare was an issue Republicans were considering.
Independents are the combination of both Democrats and Republicans. By far, Independents’ most pressing issue is healthcare, similar to both Democrats and the general electorate. A close runner up is the economy and jobs, usually a Republican-dominated issue but given who the economy plummeted during the pandemic it is now a nonpartisan issue. As previously discussed, the economy has been and continues to be a top issue for Americans. This year especially both healthcare and the economy and jobs are pressing issues for people because of the suffering that was caused by the coronavirus. Tied for the third most important issue for Independents are terrorism/national security and climate chnage/the environment. Terrorism/natinoal security was also a top issue for Republicans as climate change/the environment was to the Democrats. These results show that Independents truly are a combination of both parties.
2020 will certainly be extensively written about in history, but will the election greatly differ from years in the past? The answer is no one knows. Polling is helpful to get a sense of the general public, but there is no definite way to predict the election results.
Pew Research Center, August 2020 https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2020/08/13/important-issues-in-the-2020-election/
Pew Research Center, 2016
Pro-Con.org, February 2020
Harvard University Center for American Political Studies and The Harris Poll, January 2020
Gallup Poll, December 2019
Hill-HarrisX Poll, December 2019
Pew Research Center, September 2019