What Issues Matter To Voters This Election Season? 

By Nick Beattie

DURING this presidential election, there are many reasons to vote either way for Joe Biden or President Donald Trump. Whether it be the economy, healthcare, the COVID-19 pandemic, or some other reason, voters across the country are energized. But where they stand on critical issues such as these might sway their voting behavior.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

At the beginning of 2020, much of the American electorate had not heard of the coronavirus. Much less were they concerned about its potential to upend the American people’s daily lives completely. Eleven months later, the virus dominates the news cycle, especially within the political conversations throughout this election. 

With 9.6 million infections and 235,331 deaths in the US as of early November, voters see Covid-19 as the topmost issue. Many voters see the White House’s pandemic response as largely ineffective at controlling the virus, as cases continue to rise and many Americans struggle to return to work. 

Regardless of how it has affected them, some voters see the president’s response to the pandemic as a political issue. Republican voters consider Trump’s actions as helping mitigate the virus, arguing that without them, the country would be in a worse position than it is currently. Democrats, on the other hand, view that the lives of thousands of Americans would not have died if the president had adopted stricter guidelines.

Overall, exit polls show that most Democratic voters considered the pandemic as the most critical issue in deciding who they voted for president. In contrast, this issue swayed very little Republican voters. 

The Economy

The economy is always a critical deciding factor in elections. But with Covid-19 spreading across the country, many Americans are out of work and struggle to make ends meet. Moreover, 40 percent of exit poll respondents considered the economy a top issue in how they voted for president, with 86 percent of that group being Republican voters. 

Before the pandemic, the economy was healthy and robust under President Trump, with it having a record-breaking production of jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the onset of Covid, 23 million Americans were out of work, with the unemployment rate skyrocketing from 3.5 percent to 14.7 percent in two months. However, throughout much of 2020, Trump has continually stressed to voters that he is the best person to save the economy based on how he handled it for the past three years of his presidency. 

While both candidates each gave arguments on strengthening the economy, voters were split along partisan lines on who would better handle the economy, with Democratic voters (99%) choosing Biden, and Republican voters (93%) seeing Trump as a more decisive leader on the economy. Further, with both candidates having opposing views on where the president’s focus should be right now, 44 percent of voters view that the economy’s rebuilding should prioritize, even if it hurts efforts to combat the coronavirus, with 87 percent of the group voting for Trump. On the other hand, 51 percent of the electorate viewed that containing the virus should focus right now, even if it hurts the economy, with 83 percent voting for Biden.

Racial Injustice

Since the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, earlier this year, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement resurged across the country as hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets to protest racial and ethnic inequality. In particular, this issue is typically seen as more important to Democratic voters (89%) compared to Republicans (62%), seeing it as one of their top issues in deciding who they voted for (76%). 

Many have criticized Trump for his inability to address racial injustice within the country, whether in policing or in other systemic areas. On the other hand, critics of BLM, most of them conservatives, perceive these protests as not addressing racism but causing mass violence across the nation, which much of the protesters argue is only a small minority of what has happened.

Further, Trump’s attitude among liberal voters sees the president’s attitude towards the protests as fanning the flames of tension across the country, when he should be unifying the nation together.