ELECTION 2000: Health Care Tops Voting Agenda
Health care now tops the political agendas among American voters, the Washington Times reported yesterday. A Harris Poll released last week showed nearly one in five Americans (19%) ranked health care and education as their primary domestic concerns. A separate survey -- jointly conducted by Republican survey group Market Strategies and Democratic pollster the Feldman Group -- supports the Harris Poll results; 19% of the 1,000 respondents selected health care as the most pressing issue in America today (Gribbin, 11/7). The Washington Post reports that a Post-sponsored nationwide survey found that the single greatest concern for voters is that "insurance companies are making decisions about medical care that doctors and patients should be making." Sixty-six percent of survey respondents from Republican, Democrat and Independent parties selected HMOs as their top domestic concern. Three other health-related issues -- selected from the survey's list of 51 inquiries -- were among the dozen top worries of one-half to two-thirds of respondents. The other health-related fears included that elderly Americans will be unable to afford prescription drugs (59%); that medical benefits will be reduced or eliminated by employers (55%); and that the number if uninsured Americans will rise (percentage unavailable). The Post reported that there "is relatively little variance among city-dwellers, suburbanites and rural residents," concerning the importance of these issues (Broder, 11/7).
A statewide poll conducted by the Arizona Republic found education at the top of the agenda, capturing 79% of the vote. But 68% of respondents say health care is the major issue for the 2000 elections, echoing the national trend. One Arizona resident stated, "I can't understand, as wealthy as this country is, why (the price of) getting medicine and going to the hospital is so high." Another said, "I think HMOs need a little more regulating." The survey of 812 registered voters -- conducted by Phoenix-based Precision Research -- found that 16% of Republicans and 23% of Democrats indicated that health care should be a high priority on the Washington political agenda. Respondents were allowed multiple responses (Mayes/Kelly, 11/7).
Given the country's near-record economic prosperity, candidates in the 2000 elections are "unlikely to face the pervasive anger that made most of the elections in the 1990s nerve-racking experiences for many incumbents." Instead, candidates must address "deep public skepticism" about a system that most voters perceived to be "dominated by naked partisanship and campaign cash" (Washington Post11/7). Today's Washington Post notes the major challenge for Campaign 2000 candidates may be finding a way to divvy up domestic issues along party lines. Voters across the country are setting a campaign agenda that heavily favors the Democratic party. Republican pollster Fred Steeper said, "What we are faced with is a Democratic issue agenda." And with the increased emphasis on health care -- a traditionally Democratic issue -- Republicans may be looking for ways to gain leverage. In trying to develop "new, polarizing issues," the Republican National Committee has identified a series of political wedge issues on which Gore and/or Bradley have adopted stands that are appealing only to the left-leaning electorate, and are unpopular with voters "in the center or the right." Steeper, who conducted the RNC poll, found that Bradley's support of a woman's right to partial-birth abortions was one such issue; Republican support for Bradley dropped by "80% to 14%;" swing voters were "negative by 62% to 25%"; and Democrats were split on the issue, with 46% more likely to support Bradley and 41% less likely (Edsall, Washington Post, 11/8).