Clinton Has Edge on Healthcare, but It's Not a Top Issue

The most recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll was conducted during an exceptionally violent week. Concerns about terrorism and gun policy outranked jobs and the economy and healthcare as voter priorities.

If voters were picking a president based on their healthcare views, Democrat Hillary Clinton would have an advantage. But a new poll finds voters’ minds are on terrorism and gun policy, which are even edging jobs and the economy as top concerns as both candidates get ready for their conventions.

The Kaiser Health Tracking Poll released Friday shows that 6 years after passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more voters trust Democrats (49%) than Republicans (38%) to do a better job with its future, even though more Americans view the law unfavorably. Only 40% of voters view the law favorably, compared with 47% unfavorably.

When asked which candidate for president best represents their views on healthcare, more voters chose Clinton (46%) than Republican Donald Trump (32%). Another 15% said “neither.”

On individual healthcare issues, Democrats fare better than Republicans among core groups: more seniors think the party will protect Medicare (45% for Democrats vs 41% for Republicans). More women trust Democrats on reproductive health issues (62%) than Republicans (27%). Democrats are also faring better on more current healthcare topics: the party fares better on controlling prescription drug costs (50% vs 32%), on combatting the Zika virus (45% vs 31%), and on finding solutions to the opioid crisis (41% vs 34%).

The trouble for Democrats, however, is that healthcare and the ACA have tumbled down the list of priorities in the wake of terrorist attacks and eruptions of gun violence. Asked which issues will influence their vote, 46% said candidates’ positions on terrorism and national security were “extremely” important, and 46% also said they were motivated by a candidate’s personal qualities, including leadership skills, character, and experience. The share of voters who cared about personal qualities was about the same for Democrats (47%), Republicans (45%), and independents (46%).

Gun policy (38%) edged out jobs and the economy (37%), which both came in slightly ahead of healthcare (37%) as issues that are extremely important. There’s divergence, however, on priorities depending on party affiliation. Republicans rate terrorism/national security as the top issue (63%), while Democrats are more concerned with education (46%), and independents also eye terrorism (43%) as a priority after personal qualities.

When asked what “health” issue mattered most, Democrats and independents said healthcare costs are their top priority (43% and 37%, respectively), while Republicans’ top issue is the ACA itself (44%). The next top health issue for Republicans was cost; for Democrats and independents, it was increasing access for those who remain uninsured.

The share of Americans who know someone who has been addicted to prescription painkillers is 43%, and 1 in 5 Americans (19%) has a family member who is addicted. These shares are about the same Kaiser’s findings in April, when the tracking poll asked extensively about opioid abuse.

Results are based on questions asked to 1212 adults who were contacted July 5-11, 2016. This was a violent week in America, as social media and news broadcasts erupted with reports of police shootings of men in Louisiana and Minnesota, and of a lone gunman shooting and killing police officers in Dallas.