Polling director: Young voters swayed by health care, economy, gun control

Polling director: Young voters swayed by health care, economy, gun control
© Kevin Dietsch for The Hill

Young voters tend to align themselves with candidates who best reflect their positions on health care, the economy and gun control, a top pollster said Tuesday at The Hill’s Bipartisanship and Young America Forum.

John Della Volpe, polling director at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, told The Hill’s Julia Manchester that those three issues were the top concerns for young voters in the 2018 midterm elections.

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“We found that [gun violence prevention] was the single most important driver of the youth vote” last year, Della Volpe said at Tuesday’s event, held in partnership with American University School of Public Affairs and the Kennedy Political Union.

“Health care was number two, the economy number three,” he added.

Lawmakers at the event weighed in on some of those topics, while also acknowledging the need to work with colleagues across the aisle, particularly when it comes to passing legislation. 

Rep. Katie HillKatherine (Katie) Lauren HillLawmakers beat reporters in annual spelling bee competition Young insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Polling director: Young voters swayed by health care, economy, gun control MORE (D-Calif.) called on young voters to “elect new senators” so that the Senate could approve House-passed bills on gun violence prevention.

Rep. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellOvernight Energy: Trump to revoke California's tailpipe waiver | Democrats propose bill to revoke Trump endangered species rollback | Trump officials finalize rule allowing fewer inspectors at pork plants Democrats propose bill to revoke Trump endangered species rollback Polling director: Young voters swayed by health care, economy, gun control MORE (D-Mich.) told Steve Clemons, an editor-at-large at The Hill, she has always aimed to have a Republican work with her on legislation she’s sponsoring. She cited her husband, the late Rep. John DingellJohn DingellEnergy efficiency cannot be a partisan issue for Washington Polling director: Young voters swayed by health care, economy, gun control McCain and Dingell: Inspiring a stronger Congress MORE (D-Mich.), as saying: “To write good legislation you start in the middle.”

GOP Reps. Buddy CarterEarl (Buddy) Leroy CarterPolling director: Young voters swayed by health care, economy, gun control The Hill's Morning Report - Can Trump save GOP in North Carolina special election? The Hill's Morning Report - Congress returns: What to expect MORE (Ga.) and John Curtis (Utah) discussed climate change, with Carter saying that while he believed humans are playing a role in changing the climate, there may be differing opinions as to the degree. 

He went on to call the Green New Deal, proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez reveals new policies for campaign aides with children Kennedy launches primary challenge against Markey The Memo: 'Whistleblower' furor gains steam MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyMarkey challenges Democratic Senate campaign opponents to climate change debate Kennedy launches primary challenge against Markey Markey fundraises ahead of Kennedy primary challenge MORE (D-Mass.), “pie in the sky” and “the most hilarious thing you will ever read.”

He said “mitigation, adaptation and innovation” are better approaches in combating climate change.

On health care, Carter said, “We as a country have to make a decision: Is health care a right?”

The debate over rights vs. privileges also extended to a discussion about tuition for higher education, another top issue for young voters. 

Speaking to an audience filled with college students, Curtis struck a different tone from the numerous Democrats, including presidential candidates, who have called for either debt-free or tuition-free higher education.

Curtis, whose home state has the lowest average student loan debt, said Utah is “probably the most fiscally conservative, personal responsibility state on the planet.” 

“We believe there’s consequences and accountability,” he said. “There’s kind of a mindset that you don’t go to school if you can’t afford to pay for it."

Democrats, meanwhile, called for more affordable health care and drug prices.

“Honestly, I think that if we go into the elections, Democrats and Republicans, and we haven’t done something about the cost of drugs, we’re all going to be defeated,” Dingell said.