Courtesy Kaiser Health News

By Phil Galewitz | Kaiser Health News

Health care has emerged as the top issue for voters headed into the midterm elections, but fewer than half say they are hearing a lot from candidates on the issue, according to a new poll released Thursday.

Seven in 10 people list health care as “very important” as they make their voting choices, eclipsing the economy and jobs (64 percent), gun policy (60 percent), immigration (55 percent), tax cuts (53 percent) and foreign policy (51 percent).

When asked to choose just one issue, nearly a third picked health care, according to the survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

Still, midterm elections are traditionally a referendum on the president and his party, and that holds true this year as two-thirds of voters say a candidate’s support or opposition to President Donald Trump will be a major factor in their voting decision, the poll found.

Health care was also the top issue chosen overall by voters living in areas identified in the survey as political battlegrounds, although the results varied when pollsters drilled down to political parties. Nearly 4 in 10 Democratic battleground voters and 3 in 10 independents chose health care as their most important issue in voting for Congress.

Among Republican voters, immigration was their top issue, garnering 25 percent compared with 17 percent for health care.

The poll results in two battleground states — Florida and Nevada — also underscored voters’ interest for keeping the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions, one of the most popular provisions in the law.

Democrats have made that a key part of their campaign, pointing to Republicans’ votes to repeal the entire law and trying to drive home the message that the GOP’s efforts would strip that guarantee.

Nonetheless, Republicans have recently sought to fight back on that issue, promising on the stump and in campaign ads that they understand the need to keep the protections and would work to do that.

The poll of 1,201 adults was conducted Sept. 19-Oct. 2. The national survey has a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.

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