ASPPH logo


Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Harvard: Health Care, Guns, and Abortion Loom Large in Upcoming Election

Boston, MA –  Health care, gun policy, Supreme Court nominees, the economy and jobs, and education are among the most important issues to voters leading up to the 2018 congressional election, according to a new report co-authored by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and published online October 31, 2018 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Robert Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and colleagues reviewed data collected from 18 different polls that focused on the upcoming elections. The sample sizes of the polls ranged from 419 to 1,201, while the margin of sampling error ranged from 3.3 to 7.0 percentage points.

Findings of the review showed that 66 percent of likely voters will cast their vote to express support for or opposition to President Trump and his policies, indicating that this election will be about much more than individual issues.

The review did find, however, that health care is a top issue for likely voters. Four in 10 likely voters ranked health care as an extremely important policy concern, and 51 percent held a favorable view of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But there were strong partisan divides on the ACA, with 82 percent of Republicans having an unfavorable view of the health law while only 9 percent of Democrats had an unfavorable view.

Other top health care issues for voters include protecting health insurance coverage for those with preexisting conditions, lowering the overall cost of health care, making sure Medicare benefits are not cut, and ensuring that people do not lose their health insurance coverage. Lowering prescription drug prices is a second-tier health care priority for voters, researchers found.

Other broad public health issues that voters are concerned about include abortion and gun policies. Significant partisan divides were seen on these issues as well. A majority of overall registered or likely voters believe that abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances and are in support of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that ruled overly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional. And while a majority of registered voters favor stricter gun laws in the future, only 24 percent of Republican registered voters are in favor of such laws.

One health-related issue where there appeared to be broad consensus was the opioid crisis. The review found that 76 percent of Republican registered voters and 73 percent of Democrat registered voters consider the opioid addiction to be a very serious problem in the U.S.

“If either party finds itself in the majority in Congress after this election, there will be marked differences in overall priorities and attitudes about the president’s future initiatives in health care,” the researchers concluded.

Read more