Health Care Is the Most Important Issue for Midterm Voters, Poll Shows

(Bloomberg) -- Health care is the top issue for voters heading into the congressional midterm elections, with 71 percent saying it’s “very important,” according to a poll released Thursday by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

The economy ranked second, with 64 percent saying it was very important, followed by gun policy (60 percent) and immigration (55 percent).

Kaiser, a health-policy research group, also conducted separate polls in Florida and Nevada, two states with gubernatorial and Senate races in November. The group found that large majorities in those states said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to maintain the Affordable Care Act’s protection for people with pre-existing medical conditions, even if it results in higher costs for healthy individuals.

Protecting people with pre-existing conditions was the only issue that made the top 3 for Democrats, Republicans and independents in Florida and Nevada, said Ashley Kirzinger, a senior survey analyst for Kaiser.

“It’s because it affects a lot of people,” Kirzinger said in an interview. “We found consistently that slightly more than half of people living in the country generally, and in Florida and Nevada, live in a household with someone with a pre-existing condition. For a lot of people this really affects them.”

Despite health care’s importance to voters, poll respondents said candidates are talking more about other issues. Fifty-eight percent of poll respondents said they had heard “a lot” about immigration, followed by support for President Donald Trump (51 percent) and the economy and jobs (43 percent). The top health-care topic was the opioid epidemic, with 38 percent saying candidates were talking about it a lot, followed by Medicare for all (17 percent).

Kirzinger said part of the reason voters aren’t hearing much on health care is because Republicans and Democrats are no longer using Obamacare to rally their supporters. Republicans are gun-shy after not being able to repeal the law, while Democrats are still cautious about embracing it, she said.

Kaiser polling also found that two-thirds of voters say a candidate’s support for or opposition to Trump will be a major factor in their voting decision. By contrast, 51 percent said a candidate’s political party will be a major factor.

The poll was conducted from Sept. 19 to Oct. 2 among 1,201 adults nationally. Kaiser also surveyed 599 people each in Florida and Nevada. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points for the full national survey, and plus or minus 5 percentage points in the Nevada and Florida samples.

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