Major Election Issues in Ten US States

September 13, 2021
R&WS Research Team
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The latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies looks at the major issues that Americans in ten states say will most determine how they will vote in upcoming elections—specifically, the 2021 Gubernatorial Recall Election in California, 2021 Gubernatorial Election in Virginia, and the 2022 General Elections in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Overall, our research suggests that healthcare is likely to be one of the most critical issues in these states’ elections, with healthcare being the most-selected issue in all of the ten states polled, with the exception of Georgia and Texas. Still, substantial proportions of respondents identify healthcare as a determinative election issue in Georgia (41%) and Texas (43%) as well. The topic appears to be of particular salience for respondents in Wisconsin (50%) and Florida (46%).

Unemployment and wages is also one of the top three most-selected issues in every state except California, where other policy areas such as housing and homelessness (32%) are assigned greater importance. 45% of respondents in Georgia say unemployment and wages is an issue that is most likely to determine how they vote in the 2022 General Elections, as do 44% in Texas, 40% in Florida, and 40% in Wisconsin.

Another policy issue that is likely to be relevant in the upcoming elections—though to varying degrees depending on the state—is immigration. In fact, immigration is the most-selected issue in Texas (45%) and ties with healthcare as the most-selected issue in Arizona (39%), both of which are border states. Meanwhile, in the other border state of California, 28% indicate that the issue of immigration will most likely decide their vote in the 2021 Recall Election, making it the third most-selected option. Immigration is also a top issue in Florida (39%).

Further, the area of policing and crime appears to be of particular importance to prospective voters in Virginia (40%), Georgia (39%), Florida (34%), North Carolina (33%), and Ohio (33%), while taxation stands out as a major election issue for Wisconsinites (39%) and Pennsylvanians (34%).

Reaffirming the imperative role that healthcare is set to play in these states’ next elections, large majorities in all ten states polled say a candidate’s healthcare policies will be extremely or very important to them in determining how they vote in their state’s 2022 General Election. Respondents in Virginia and Florida are the most likely to say healthcare policies will be extremely important to them, with 38% expressing this sentiment in both states, compared to 26% in Wisconsin. 

Immigration is again found to be of heightened importance to residents of border states: 43% in Arizona and 39% in Texas say a candidate’s immigration policies will be extremely important to them. Meanwhile, a candidate’s policing and crime platform is deemed extremely important by significant pluralities in all states except Wisconsin, with such pluralities ranging from 38% in California and Pennsylvania to 47% in Florida. Wisconsin is also the only state to not see a plurality consider a candidate’s environmental policies extremely important, at 26%, compared to 36% who say so in Florida.

A candidate’s tax policies, regarded as extremely or very important by majorities in all states, will also be extremely important to 36% in Florida. Respondents in Georgia (33%), meanwhile, are the most likely to view a candidate’s welfare policies as extremely important to them, whereas a plurality (32%) of Arizonians consider this policy area to be only moderately important. In fact, Arizona is the only state to not see a majority saying a candidate’s welfare policies will be extremely or very important to them, though at 48%, the figure is still considerable.

2022 General Election candidates’ education policies will also be critical for many voters, particularly in Florida (36%), Georgia (35%), and Arizona (32%), where pluralities say this policy area is extremely important to them.

Relatively less importance is assigned to candidates’ housing, labour, and business policies, with pluralities in all states regarding these areas as very or moderately important, rather than extremely. In these realms, Californians (31%) are the most likely to say housing policies are extremely important, while Floridians are most likely to say the same of labour (28%) and business (25%) policies.

Notably, candidates’ party affiliation also seems to be a relatively less important consideration for respondents in these states. California (52%) is the only state to see a majority say this fact is extremely or very important to them, whereas pluralities in Pennsylvania (25%) and Ohio (23%) say a candidate’s party affiliation is just moderately important to them. These findings serve to confirm the major role that the issues themselves will play in the 2022 General Elections.

However, it is necessary to note that the importance that Americans assign to certain issues in deciding how they will vote varies substantially according to their past political behaviour. For example, when it comes to 2020 Donald Trump voters, immigration is the most-selected determinative election issue in Texas (63%), Arizona (62%), California (53%), Florida (60%), North Carolina (46%), and Georgia (42%).

Considerable proportions of 2020 Donald Trump voters in many states also say Government spending is most likely to determine how they will vote in upcoming elections; in fact, at 42%, it is the top issue for such voters in Ohio. In Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, meanwhile, the issue that is most-selected by Trump voters is taxation, at 45% and 49%, respectively. 43% of Trump voters in California also identify taxation as a major issue that will shape how they vote.

Policing and crime is another important election issue for Donald Trump voters in these states, with 47% in Virginia, 43% in Wisconsin, 42% in North Carolina, 41% in Florida, and 40% in Georgia and Texas selecting policing and crime. Lastly, unemployment and wages is a key election issue for 43% of Trump voters residing in Wisconsin and Texas, 42% in Georgia, and 40% in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

Accordingly, immigration, Government spending, taxation, policing and crime, and unemployment and wages seem to be the election issues that will most determine how former Donald Trump voters will vote in these states’ next elections. 

To this point, pluralities or majorities of Donald Trump voters in all ten states say a candidate’s immigration policies will be extremely important in determining how they will vote in 2022, varying from 38% in Georgia to 56% in Texas and 57% in Florida. Likewise, pluralities or majorities also assign extreme importance to a candidate’s policing and crime policies, including 57% of Californian Trump voters. Such voters in California are also the most likely to say a candidate’s tax (47%), welfare (35%), and housing (33%) policies will be extremely important, among Trump voters in the ten states.

North Carolina is the state where the greatest proportion of Trump voters say a candidate’s labour policies will be extremely important (28%), while Arizona sees the greatest proportion reporting that business policies are of extreme importance (29%).

In the areas of healthcare and the environment, Donald Trump voters in every state are less likely than Joe Biden voters to say a candidate’s platform is extremely important to them.

Indeed, 2020 Joe Biden voters overall are more likely to say healthcare and the environment will be key issues that will determine how they vote in upcoming elections, along with unemployment and wages, education, and policing and crime. Healthcare is the most-chosen determinative election issue for Joe Biden voters in all ten states, with majorities—ranging from 54% in Georgia to 62% in Wisconsin—in all states except Arizona and California selecting this option.

Unemployment and wages is often the next most popular election issue for 2020 Joe Biden voters in the ten states, chosen by 47% of respondents in Georgia, 45% in Texas, 42% in Arizona, 41% in North Carolina, and 40% in Virginia. The environment also features highly in many Biden voters’ responses, most especially in Arizona (41%), Florida (41%), and Pennsylvania (39%). Education appears notably important to Biden voters in Arizona (38%) and Wisconsin (34%), while policing and crime is a top issue for those in Virginia (39%), Georgia (38%), and Ohio (32%). 

As is the case for overall respondents, large majorities of 2020 Joe Biden voters in all ten states say a candidate’s healthcare policies will be extremely or very important to them in determining how they vote in 2022—including 52% in Virginia who say it will be extremely important. A candidate’s environmental platform will also be extremely important to 48% of Biden voters in Florida and 43% in Georgia.

In contrast to Donald Trump voters, Joe Biden voters are less likely to say a candidate’s immigration policies will be extremely important to them, a response which peaks at 37% of Biden voters (compared to 53% of Trump voters) in Arizona. Smaller proportions of Biden voters than Trump voters say policing and crime platforms will be extremely important as well, except in Virginia, where a considerable 49% of Biden voters give this response.

With the exceptions of Georgia and Ohio, Joe Biden voters are more likely to say that a candidate’s tax policies will be very, rather than extremely, important to them in the 2022 General Election. Pluralities across the board also say business policies will be very or moderately important. 

Welfare policies are considered extremely important to varying proportions of Biden voters, ranging from 24% in Arizona to 35% in Florida. The same is true of education policies and labour policies, with Virginian Biden voters being the most likely to deem both the former (41%) and the latter (31%) extremely important. As is the case with Donald Trump voters, a candidate’s housing policies are viewed to be extremely important by the greatest proportion of Joe Biden voters in California (32%), underlining the significance of this issue in the state.

Lastly, when it comes to the relevance of a candidate’s party affiliation when Americans in these ten states are determining their vote, this consideration is deemed extremely important by a greater proportion of Biden voters than Trump voters in all states but Arizona, Florida, and Ohio. The discrepancy on the importance of party affiliation between Biden and  Trump voters is most distinct in Virginia, where 36% of Biden voters and 20% of Trump voters say it is extremely important, and in Arizona, where 38% of Trump voters and 22% of Biden voters give this response.

Overall, our research in these ten American states demonstrates that both within and between states, there are notable differences in which issues voters take into account when deciding how they will cast their ballot. That being said, it can be presumed that healthcare, unemployment and wages, and immigration will be some of the most dominating topics in the elections taking place across the US in 2021 and 2022.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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