The Democratic Primary Is Still Mostly About Health Care

It's the issue Democratic voters say they care most about. It's also what they're hearing most from campaigns.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg are introduced before a debate in Westerville, Ohio, on Oct. 15.

Impeachment proceedings may be dominating the headlines, but Democratic voters are far more likely to care about health care, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey finds ― and most also say it’s among the issues they’re hearing discussed most on the campaign trail.

About half of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters say they’ve heard candidates mention impeachment within the last month, compared to the nearly 7 in 10 who’ve heard mention of health care. 

But the 62% who name health care as among the issues getting the most play in the campaign eclipses the share who see a similar focus on any other topic. Roughly a quarter name impeachment, gun policies and the environment as being among the most-mentioned issues, with nothing else breaking above 20%.

The sentiments expressed in the poll echo reports from the campaign trail, where virtually none of voters’ questions to the candidates have focused on impeachment and only a minority have been about President Donald Trump. One possible reason, as The New York Times’ Reid Epstein notes, is that the Democratic hopefuls all more or less support the impeachment inquiry. By contrast, there are significant differences among the candidates’ visions for the health care system ― and those differences have been highlighted, if not always illuminated, by the primary debates.

About half of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters want to see the candidates talk more about health care and the environment, the HuffPost/YouGov survey finds, with few wanting to hear less about either issue. Voters are more divided on impeachment, with 23% saying they’d like to hear more and 22% saying that they’d like to hear less about it. 

As was the case during the 2018 midterm elections, Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters also overwhelmingly choose health care as being among the issues that matter most to them. Sixty-two percent say health care is one of their three top issues for next year’s primary, with 42% picking the environment, followed by gun policies (29%), the economy (25%), impeachment (20%), immigration (18%), social issues (16%), voting rights (11%) and abortion policy (10%). Fewer than 1 in 10 picked any of the other issues listed, including foreign policy, corporate regulation, tax reform or the Supreme Court.

Like any poll, this one should be read with a couple of caveats. For one, surveys on top issues can vary considerably based on the set of options respondents are provided with. For another, not every voter who picks “health care” as a top issue will mean the same thing; some might be worried about rising costs, while others could be expressing their support for (or opposition to) a plan like “Medicare for All.” And last, voters’ propensity to care about an issue doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll end up deciding whom to vote for because of it. 

But what voters say they care most about, and which political messages are best breaking through, can help shed light on an election’s dynamics. In the latest poll, 72% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters say the candidates are addressing the issues and topics that matter to them at least somewhat well, with 30% saying they’re doing so very well. By contrast, 41% of all registered voters say Democratic candidates are addressing their issues at least somewhat well. 

Use the widget below to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups: 

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Nov. 6-7 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.