Besides Pocketbook Issues, What’s Important to Americans in Making Voting Decisions

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – May 1, 2014 – There are a lot of considerations that come into play when considering which candidate to vote for. Sometimes it is as simple as what party they belong to. Other times, it can be something a little more superficial, as in who sweat more during a televised debate. But often, it comes down to how a candidate stands on certain issues. Which issues matter isn’t the same for every voter. A single, Gen X female voter in the Northeast is going to not only care about different issues, but have different issues that are most important to them when deciding who to vote for, than a married, Baby Boomer, male voter in the Midwest.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll¨ of 2,300 adults surveyed online between April 16 and 21, 2014.

    Overall, the economy is among the most important issues for three in five Americans (61%) followed by two in five who say healthcare (39%) and jobs (39%) are important issues for them in deciding which candidate to vote for. Just over one-quarter of U.S. adults say social security (27%) and taxes (27%) are important issues, while 22% say that about education. Fewer numbers say the environment (16%), immigration (15%), terrorism (13%), foreign policy (9%), gay rights (8%) and abortion (7%) are important issues when deciding for whom they will vote.

    Political differences

    Some obvious differences in the importance of voting issues come out when this is examined by party and ideology. Democrats are more likely than Republicans and Independents to say that healthcare (46% vs. 36% and 36%) and social security (32% vs. 21% and 26%) are among the most important issues to them when it comes to deciding between candidates. Republicans are more likely than both Democrats and Independents to say that taxes (36% vs. 19% and 26%) and terrorism (22% vs. 10% and 7%) are important issues for making voting decisions. Interestingly, Democrats and Independents are more likely than Republicans to say that education (25% and 22% vs. 14%) and the environment (19% and 18% vs. 6%) are important issues in deciding who to vote for.

    Gender differences

    While it’s the top issue for both, men are more likely than women to say the economy is one of the issues most important to them in deciding who to vote for (65% vs. 58%). Men are also more likely than women to say jobs are an important issue (44% vs. 33%). Women, however, are more likely than men to say healthcare is important in making voting choices (43% vs. 35%).

    Regional differences

    Looking at region, perhaps not surprisingly, Westerners are more likely than those in the East, Midwest and South to say that the environment is one of the important issues for them when it comes to making voting decisions (25% vs. 13% for the other regions). Easterners and Southerners, however, are more likely than those in the Midwest and West to say terrorism is an important issue for deciding who to vote for (14% and 18% vs. 6% and 10%).

    Generational differences

    It’s probably not surprising to anyone that social security is a more important issue to Baby Boomers and Matures than it is to Millennials and Gen Xers (34% and 42% vs. 12% and 27%). And, since they most recently lived it, it seems natural that Millennials are more likely than Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and Matures to say education is an important issue when making voting decisions (35% vs. 21%, 15% and 13%).

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    TABLE 1

    IMPORTANCE OF ISSUES WHEN VOTING

    Looking at this list of issues, which two or three are most important to you in deciding which candidates you would vote for?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Political Party

    Political Philosophy

    Gender

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Cons.

    Mod.

    Lib.

    Men

    Women

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    The economy

    61

    64

    60

    66

    62

    63

    56

    65

    58

    Healthcare

    39

    36

    46

    36

    33

    40

    44

    35

    43

    Jobs

    39

    37

    42

    38

    39

    38

    38

    44

    33

    Social Security

    27

    21

    32

    26

    26

    29

    23

    24

    29

    Taxes

    27

    36

    19

    27

    34

    26

    17

    29

    24

    Education

    22

    14

    25

    22

    13

    26

    26

    22

    22

    The environment

    16

    6

    19

    18

    5

    17

    29

    14

    17

    Immigration

    15

    18

    11

    17

    19

    15

    11

    15

    15

    Terrorism

    13

    22

    10

    7

    19

    12

    4

    11

    14

    Foreign Policy

    9

    14

    5

    10

    12

    8

    7

    11

    7

    Gay rights

    8

    4

    9

    7

    5

    5

    19

    6

    10

    Abortion

    7

    11

    5

    5

    13

    3

    7

    4

    10

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 2

    IMPORTANCE OF ISSUES WHEN VOTING – By Region and Generation

    Looking at this list of issues, which two or three are most important to you in deciding which candidates you would vote for?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Region

    Generation

    East

    Midwest

    South

    West

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen X (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    The economy

    61

    65

    61

    61

    59

    55

    60

    68

    60

    Healthcare

    39

    39

    45

    37

    37

    39

    33

    40

    44

    Jobs

    39

    43

    38

    42

    30

    46

    39

    35

    30

    Social Security

    27

    24

    30

    28

    26

    12

    27

    34

    42

    Taxes

    27

    33

    30

    22

    23

    19

    28

    31

    29

    Education

    22

    18

    20

    24

    24

    35

    21

    15

    13

    The environment

    16

    13

    13

    13

    25

    20

    17

    12

    15

    Immigration

    15

    15

    15

    15

    16

    12

    15

    16

    21

    Terrorism

    13

    14

    6

    18

    10

    11

    10

    15

    15

    Foreign Policy

    9

    11

    8

    9

    8

    8

    11

    9

    10

    Gay rights

    8

    5

    9

    8

    9

    13

    10

    4

    2

    Abortion

    7

    5

    9

    7

    8

    9

    6

    6

    5

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between April 16 and 21, 2014 among 2,300 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

    The Harris Poll¨ #43, May 1, 2014

    By Regina A. Corso, VP, The Harris Poll and Public Relations Research

    About Nielsen & The Harris Poll

    On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.