Poll: Immigration overtakes health care as top issue for voters

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Immigration has surpassed health care as the issue that voters see as the most important facing the United States, according to a new Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey released exclusively to The Hill.

Forty-two percent of registered voters pointed to immigration as the top issue, compared to 38 percent who chose health care, the survey shows. 

Older people were more likely to pick immigration as their top issue, with 55 percent of voters 65 and older saying so. Only 25 percent of voters aged 18-24 chose immigration as the most important issue.

{mosads}The poll underscores just how prominent a role immigration is poised to play in the 2020 election cycle after health care had topped the concerns of voters.

“For most of the last few years health care, a Democratic issue, has been the most important issue, but as the full nature of the problems at the border became evident, it has risen to the top issue in the country,” Mark Penn, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll, said. “That’s why Democrats in the Senate and House got together to pass emergency relief legislation.” 

President Trump has hinged much of his political career on a hard-line message of cracking down on unauthorized border crossings as well as tightening legal immigration. 

Democrats, on the other hand, are advocating for looser restrictions on immigration, with many of the party’s presidential candidates coming out in favor of decriminalizing illegal border crossings.

The trend toward immigration as the top issue also marks a shift away from the political conversation in 2018, which hinged primarily on health care. 

Democrats running for Congress that year largely ran on a poll-tested message of protecting the Affordable Care Act from Republican attempts to dismantle it, as well as promises to expand coverage. The message was seen as one of the factors that allowed Democrats to take over the House. 

More recently, however, the immigration debate has taken center stage. 

Congress sent a $4.6 billion humanitarian aid package to Trump’s desk last week following a bitter fight over protections for migrant children in shelters. 

And at the first round of Democratic presidential debates, candidates staked out more liberal positions on immigration, embracing ideas like decriminalizing border crossings and providing health insurance to undocumented immigrants — a show of how Trump’s hard-line views have pushed Democrats to the left in the immigration debate.

No other issue comes close to rivaling immigration and health care in the minds of U.S. voters, according to the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey. Terrorism and national security came in third place with 23 percent, while jobs and the economy placed fourth with 22 percent.

When it comes to Congress, 19 percent of voters said that addressing the status of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. should be the top priority for the Democratic House majority. Tied for second place on that front was impeaching Trump and stimulating the economy, each taking 13 percent in the survey.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll online survey of 2,182 registered voters was conducted from June 26-29. 

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working with Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll throughout 2019.

Full poll results will be posted online later today. The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.

Tags 2020 election Border Donald Trump Immigration Mark Penn Migrant shelters
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