Besides Pocketbook Issues, What's Important to Americans in Making Voting Decisions

The economy is most important, followed by healthcare and jobs

May 01, 2014, 05:00 ET from The Harris Poll

NEW YORK, May 1, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- There are a lot of considerations that come into play when considering which candidate to vote for. Sometimes it is as simple as what party they belong to. Other times, it can be something a little more superficial, as in who sweat more during a televised debate. But often, it comes down to how a candidate stands on certain issues. Which issues matter isn't the same for every voter. A single, Gen X female voter in the Northeast is going to not only care about different issues, but have different issues that are most important to them when deciding who to vote for, than a married, Baby Boomer, male voter in the Midwest.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,300 adults surveyed online between April 16 and 21, 2014. (Full results, including data tables, can be found here)

Overall, the economy is among the most important issues for three in five Americans (61%) followed by two in five who say healthcare (39%) and jobs (39%) are important issues for them in deciding which candidate to vote for. Just over one-quarter of U.S. adults say social security (27%) and taxes (27%) are important issues, while 22% say that about education. Fewer numbers say the environment (16%), immigration (15%), terrorism (13%), foreign policy (9%), gay rights (8%) and abortion (7%) are important issues when deciding for whom they will vote.

Political differences

Some obvious differences in the importance of voting issues come out when this is examined by party and ideology. Democrats are more likely than Republicans and Independents to say that healthcare (46% vs. 36% and 36%) and social security (32% vs. 21% and 26%) are among the most important issues to them when it comes to deciding between candidates. Republicans are more likely than both Democrats and Independents to say that taxes (36% vs. 19% and 26%) and terrorism (22% vs. 10% and 7%) are important issues for making voting decisions. Interestingly, Democrats and Independents are more likely than Republicans to say that education (25% and 22% vs. 14%) and the environment (19% and 18% vs. 6%) are important issues in deciding who to vote for. 

Gender differences

While it's the top issue for both, men are more likely than women to say the economy is one of the issues most important to them in deciding who to vote for (65% vs. 58%). Men are also more likely than women to say jobs are an important issue (44% vs. 33%). Women, however, are more likely than men to say healthcare is important in making voting choices (43% vs. 35%).

Regional differences

Looking at region, perhaps not surprisingly, Westerners are more likely than those in the East, Midwest and South to say that the environment is one of the important issues for them when it comes to making voting decisions (25% vs. 13% for the other regions). Easterners and Southerners, however, are more likely than those in the Midwest and West to say terrorism is an important issue for deciding who to vote for (14% and 18% vs. 6% and 10%).

Generational differences

It's probably not surprising to anyone that social security is a more important issue to Baby Boomers and Matures than it is to Millennials and Gen Xers (34% and 42% vs. 12% and 27%). And, since they most recently lived it, it seems natural that Millennials are more likely than Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and Matures to say education is an important issue when making voting decisions (35% vs. 21%, 15% and 13%).

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This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between April 16 and 21, 2014 among 2,300 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

The Harris Poll® #43, May 1, 2014
By Regina A. Corso, VP, The Harris Poll and Public Relations Research

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SOURCE The Harris Poll