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US Elections 2020: How Important is Healthcare for Voters?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

The majority of respondents prioritized healthcare over the economy — as revealed by a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll, for example, which found that 26% of respondents thought healthcare issues were the most important factor for electing a president. Respondents believed this regardless of their political leaning.

Other surveys found similar results at the time. Politico, in collaboration with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, found that within domestic policy, voters were most concerned about healthcare costs.

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If you would like to check your registration status or register to vote, we have added some useful links at the bottom of this article.

In the survey, 80% of respondents expected the president and congress to take steps to lower the cost of healthcare, while 75% wanted them to reduce prescription drug costs, regardless of their voting intentions.

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Healthcare no longer top priority for voters

However, the COVID-19 outbreak, which is intimately related to healthcare, took the second spot, with 20% of registered voters saying it was the most important issue for them. Therefore, respondents rank the current pandemic as the second most important issue after the economy.

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Furthermore, criminal justice and policing came third, with 16% of the respondents placing it at the top of their list, while race relations took fourth place among Americans’ priorities, with 14% of voters ranking it as their main criterion for choosing a president.

Overall, there has been a major shift in the issues that Americans prioritize in the run-up to this election.

What, specifically, about healthcare matters to voters?

Going into more depth, the survey also asked respondents what specific healthcare issues get their vote.

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In response, the participants mentioned:

  • increasing access to health insurance coverage, such as universal coverage (18% of respondents)
  • the cost and affordability of healthcare, including the cost of prescription drugs (15%)
  • the COVID-19 outbreak (8%)
  • “Medicare or senior concerns” (7%)

By contrast, other issues seem to have fallen off the radar. “A healthcare issue that no longer seems to be resonating with voters, especially Republican voters, is the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA),” the KFF report states.

Namely, only 5% of Republican voters said they would oppose or wish to get rid of the ACA “as a top healthcare issue (compared to 29% of Republican voters who said the same prior to the 2016 presidential election).”

Swing voters no longer prioritize healthcare

Currently, according to this specific KFF poll, 35% of voters report that they are “definitely going to vote for President Trump,” and 38% say they are “definitely going to vote for Joe Biden.”

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However, there remains a significant proportion of voters who will vote “probably” for the Democratic candidate, “probably” for the Republican candidate, or report still being “undecided.”

These undecided swing voters make up 24% of all registered voters. Importantly, healthcare is no longer a top priority among them either.

Now, 35% of swing voters place the economy at the top of their priorities. This is followed by criminal justice and policing (17%), the coronavirus pandemic (15%), and race relations (14%).

How do priorities vary by party affiliation?

The new analysis also reveals, as always, different parties have different priorities.

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Overall, Republicans prioritize the economy and “criminal justice and policing,” whereas Democratic voters care about ending the current pandemic first and race relations second.

More specifically, Republican voters are overwhelmingly concerned with the economy: 53% place it at the top of their priorities when electing a president, while 29% of independent voters also prioritize it.

By contrast, 36% of Democratic voters report they are preoccupied with the handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The next issue that will decide who they choose for president is race relations, with 27% prioritizing this topic.

How voters feel about the pandemic and a potential vaccine

In fact, 62% of voters — 85% of Democrats, 35% of Republicans, and 61% of independent voters — worry that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will hastily approve a vaccine that may not be wholly safe and effective as a result of political pressure from the current administration.

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To be specific, respondents answered the question “How worried are you, if at all, that the U.S. FDA will rush to approve a coronavirus vaccine without making sure that it is safe and effective due to political pressure from the Trump Administration?” thus:

  • 33% of total voters said they were “very worried”
  • 29% of total voters said they were “somewhat worried”
  • 16% were “not too worried”
  • 20% said they were “not at all worried”

On a different note, misconceptions about the new coronavirus continue to prevail. As many as 1 in 5 U.S. adults still believe wearing a face mask is damaging to one’s health, for example.

In particular, the decline in trust of Dr. Anthony Fauci is notably “steep” among Republicans.

Race issues, police violence take center stage

“The recent police shootings of unarmed [B]lack Americans and subsequent protests have resonated with voters with both criminal justice and policing and race relations ranking among the top election issues, depending on party identification.”

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In fact, 27% of Democratic voters say race relations constitute “the most important issue in deciding their vote for president.” Similarly, 23% of Republicans say criminal justice and policing will be the top issue that will help them decide.

“In addition, large majorities of voters view racism, police violence, and violence caused by protestors as at least “somewhat of a problem” in the U.S.,” write Hamel and colleagues. They continue:

“About six in ten (58%) say racism is a “big problem” while about four in ten say the same about police violence against the public (43%).”

This year’s BLM protests started at the end of May.

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