We Asked Americans To Tell Us Which Issues Political Leaders Should Address

2020-01-10 15:00:31

As the U.S. heads into another election year and Americans consider their options, we asked readers in a HuffPost Forum which issues they most want their elected officials to address in the next five years ― and received a slate of responses spanning everything from fighting climate change to enshrining abortion rights to forgiving student loans.

“It’s time for transparency, honesty, and some hard truth telling,” wrote one reader, urging politicians to acknowledge the influence of special interest groups.

“Our system of government has almost broken into small bits,” worried another, who advocated a renewed focus on the nation’s diplomatic presence abroad.

To get a more broadly reflective picture of what the American public wants to see from its leaders, we also ran a poll, using YouGov’s nationally representative panel. We gave respondents a list of 15 issues, asking them to pick up to three that they’d most like to see their officials focus on.  

As the responses showed, Americans have a wide-ranging and diverse set of concerns. Health care, however, stood out as an especially common concern: 43% of Americans picked it as one of their top issues in the HuffPost/YouGov survey. That was followed by immigration (31%), the economy (27%), the environment (23%), gun policies (21%), the way things work in Washington (18%) and wealth inequality (17%).

Priorities vary, to some extent, along demographic lines. Women were 9 points likelier than men to cite abortion as a top concern. Black and Hispanic Americans were, combined, 20 points likelier than white Americans to say gun policy should be a top issue. People living in the nation’s West were 12 points likelier than those in the Northeast or South to express special concerns about the environment. (You can check out some of the differences for yourself using these interactive crosstabs.)

Many of the most notable divides, however came along partisan lines. A majority of Republicans chose immigration as a top issue, with the economy and health care coming in second and third place, respectively. Democrats, by contrast, were most likely to focus on health care, with the environment and gun policies rounding out their top three.

In a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, Americans say elected officials should focus on health care, immigration and the economy.

In a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, Americans say elected officials should focus on health care, immigration and the economy.

We also asked survey respondents to lay out their top issues in their own words. Here are a few of their responses, in some cases lightly edited for grammar or clarity:

“Health insurance prices are ridiculous. Poor people do not stand a chance. They should focus on making sure that the poor, vets and seniors are getting their fair share. Food stamps should continue because there is a need. People with money cannot see the needs, since they always have what they need.” ― 74-year-old Georgia woman

“Build the wall on the southern border. Close the loopholes in the immigration system.” ― 77-year-old California man

“I’d like to see them finally realize that health insurance doesn’t necessarily equal health care. All the insurance in the world won’t help you if your county doesn’t have doctors or a hospital and you have to travel 50 miles to see one…. Being a retired farmer, I’d like to see the end of the tariffs on agricultural trade. American farmers are hardworking people and we feed the country and a lot of the world.” ― 71-year-old Alabama woman

“I think climate change is the most important issue to focus on right now, because it doesn’t just affect a certain group of people but EVERYONE.” ― 19-year-old Texas woman

“Climate change and gun violence are the biggest threats to our country at the moment, aside from the president.” ― 36-year-old Massachusetts man

“Bringing America together again, rather than making the divide deeper – in all areas, including socio-economic, immigration status, race/religion, and party. We should all be working together.” ― 30-year-old Illinois man

“Finding a pathway for people to get off of government assistance and become productive members of our society that pay into the system, not just take.” ― 42-year-old California woman

“I would like to see Citizens United overturned and the sources of political contributions made transparent. In addition, I support a national health care plan, single payer, such as Medicare For All.” ― 68-year-old California woman

“Infrastructure modernization, frankly. Move the nation into the 21st Century via improvements in transportation, energy, and food production. Embrace technologies and policies designed to arrest climate change effects in doing so.” ― 54-year-old Washington man

“Focus on crafting universal basic income. That would lift millions out of poverty.” ― 26-year-old New York man

“Getting rid of abortion.” ― 22-year-old Pennsylvania woman

“Nothing, because I don’t plan on voting for any of these people, and I don’t trust them to do anything.” ― 40-year-old Florida woman

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Dec. 13-15 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some but not all potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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