April 9, 2018
At a press conference on April 4, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he feared the Republicans would be swept by the Democrats in the midterms—noting, “We know the wind is going to be in our face. We don’t know whether it’s going to be a Category 3, 4, or 5,” according to a report by The Washington Times.
He just might be right: Heading into the midterm elections, American voters say they are more focused on healthcare than on any other political point of contention, based on findings of a HuffPost/YouGov poll released on April 6. And a vote for better healthcare, even the GOP concedes, would be a vote for the Democrats.
The researchers reported that “an unusual trio of issues tied for second place,”with each named by about 25% of voters as a top priority—the economy, which perpetually ranks as a top campaign topic; but also gun policies, which rarely garner that level of attention; and immigration, a mainstay of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
With the caveat that, this far ahead of the election, there’s still plenty of time for campaign narratives to develop and change, if healthcare does play a prominent role , it would give an advantage to Democrats.
Healthcare, which, the researchers note, “likely contributed to Democrats’ midterm shellacking in 2010,” is now an issue they feel free to embrace. For the first election cycle since its passage, a majority of the public now approves of President Obama’s signature healthcare law, and Democrats enjoy a sizable advantage over the GOP on handling related issues
The poll also suggests that gun issues, which have long ranked low on Americans’ priority lists, are continuing to draw heightened attention in the wake of the Parkland, Florida mass shooting, especially among proponents of gun control.
By contrast, the economy — one of the relatively few bright spots for the GOP—remains a top issue, but isn’t overwhelmingly at the front of public opinion the way it was in past elections. And tax reform, which Republicans had hoped would serve as a midterm asset, has stalled out in popularity and doesn’t appear to be at the top of voters’ minds.
The survey also looked at which issues each party is perceived as focusing mostly on. In the case of the Democratic Party, that’s guns, followed by Trump’s record. In the case of the GOP, it’s taxes, immigration, and the economy.
Nearly 70% of voters say they are somewhat closely following news about the midterms and 30% say that they’re paying very close attention. Forty percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, but just 23%t of Republican and Republican-leaning voters, say they’re already paying very close attention.
Research contact: @aedwardslevy