Historically-speaking, midterm elections don’t garner much attention from the public. Close to 60 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot during the 2016 presidential election. Contrast that number to the abysmal voter rate of the 2014 midterms—the lowest rate in70 years, according to PBS News Hour. Things don’t look quite that way this time around.
Interest in the 2018 midterms has spiked and voter turnout is expected to be higher than usual—especially on the Democratic side. Already, about a fifth of registered voters (37 million) cast a ballot in House primary elections, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s a 56 percent increase from 2014. Another recent Pew study found that voter enthusiasm is at its highest in more than two decades.
Why? The 2018 midterm elections are largely being seen as a referendum on President Donald Trump’s agenda. After all, there’s no shortage of controversial policies the Trump administration has put in place, from the so-called Muslim Ban to family separations at the border to tariffs on Chinese imports to the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who faced allegations of sexual assault. The list goes on and on.
So, what exactly are the issues that have voters so fired up? Ahead, we’ve rounded up some of the 2018 election issues that we’re paying close attention to. (And in case you need to freshen up on your voter registration status, here’s our checklist to make sure you’re set to vote during the 2018 midterms.)
2018 midterm election issues to watch
Among the 2018 midterm election issues, healthcare reigns supreme. Already, Democrats have spent large campaign dollars on political ads focused on the affordability of healthcare. Indeed, a CBS/YouGov poll found that in competitive House districts, 70 percent of voters ranked healthcare as a more important issue than the Supreme Court immigration or guns, according to Vox.
It’s easy to see why. The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) guaranteed health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Earlier this year, the Trump administration supported a lawsuit arguing the ACA is unconstitutional and that coverage for pre-existing conditions is financially unsustainable.
The Trump administration has made immigration a key issue that’s riled up voters on all sides. There’s a lot to consider, too. The president wants to end DACA, the program aimed at helping undocumented immigrants to came to the US as children, but he wants Congress to draft a solution. The program allowing the number of refugees in the States has also been sharply reduced and his travel ban prevents entry for people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Talk of building a wall with Mexico hasn’t subsided, either. And his “zero-tolerance” immigration policy has come under more scrutiny as reports of families being separated at the border caught the public’s attention this summer. While the courts have ordered that hundred of children be reunified with their families, thousands more children remain in detention.
In September, The New York Times reported that the population of migrant children at these federally contracted shelters is 12,800, up from 2,400 in 2017. This is one of the 2018 midterm election issues that you don’t want to sleep on.
By and large the US economy is doing well. The unemployment rate is experiencing an 18-year-low and overall job satisfaction is at its highest since 2005 (51 percent), according to the Hill. The big problem? Think wages. While there’s been strong job growth, the tax cuts enacted by the GOP have mostly helped the wealthiest of Americans—and corporations.
For middle-class Americans, they’ll see an 11 percent cut in taxes, or put simply, $18 a week, according to CNBC. President Trump’s announcement that he wants to hit China with another round of tariffs has also raised concerns that everyday Americans will start feeling the effects of the trade war.
While abortion remains a legal procedure, the level of access women have to an abortion varies dramatically from state to state. Laws in certain states prevent insurance companies from covering abortion while others require waiting periods or counseling for women considering an abortion. Laws targeting abortion clinics have become so restrictive, that in seven states, there is only one clinic available to residents.
After the contentious confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade is at the top of the mind for women’s rights activists. During his confirmation proceedings, Kavanaugh stated that, “As a general proposition, I understand the importance of the precedent set forth in Roe v. Wade.”In her speech defending her decision to confirm Kavanaugh, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she doesn’t believe he will repeal the landmark decision.
The problem? Kavanaugh’s confirmation tilts the Supreme Court to the right and gives it the likely 5-4 majority needed to overturn Roe v. Wade, thereby leaving it up to individual states to determine the legality of the procedure.
Education and student debt
To call the student loan crisis a “crisis,” seems almost benign. Earlier this year, overall student debt hit the $1.5 trillion—yes, trillion—mark. Currently, 1 in 6 graduates have debt that exceeds their income and because it’s a slow repayment process, there’s no sign that the number will go down anytime soon, according to Market Watch. The Trump administration announced in the summer that it plans to merge the Department of Education with the Department of Labor to give the private industry a greater role in matters.
While it will likely not go into effect, the plan is indicative of greater goals to minimize the Department of Education. Which, let’s not forget, lost a lawsuit this year after plaintiffs charged the Department was delaying student loan forgiveness for certain students.
Oh, and let’s also not forget how education has become a major issue in several state elections where teachers are fighting for greater pay and more resources. Earlier this year, teachers went on strike in West Virginia, a state that ranks among the worst in terms of teacher pay (48th). That they eventually won a pay increase has inspired similar movements in other states. Among the 2018 midterm election issues, education remains an issue with major, immediate implications at the local level.