Oct. 2, 2020 – More than two-thirds of WebMD readers – the majority of them women -- say a candidate’s policies on health care and how they’ll handle the COVID-19 pandemic are “very important” to their vote, a new poll finds.
In the poll of 1,000 readers, 67% ranked a candidate’s policies on healthcare as “very important.” An even higher percentage -- 69.5% -- also cite a candidate’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a “very important” part of their vote.
Women were about 2.5 times as likely to rank both issues as “very important” as men were. About 51% of women, compared with 19% of men, say a candidate’s healthcare policies are “very important.” On COVID response, about 48% of women say the COVID-19 response is “very important,” as compared with 20% of men.
The vast majority or readers -- just over 83% -- say the current and future pandemic response is “very important” or “important” in how they plan to vote. Only 5% say the pandemic is “unimportant” or “very unimportant” to their voting decision.
A similar majority -- a little less than 83% -- say their chosen presidential candidate’s policies on health care are an important factor in this year’s election. About 5% say they’re not important.
“This country is facing serious issues related to health and health care. We’re 8 months into a pandemic that continues to challenge us, millions of people have already lost their health insurance, and millions more are at risk if they lose their jobs,” says John Whyte, MD, chief medical office at WebMD. “Given these challenges, it’s no wonder these issues are top of mind for voters.”
The U.S. has now reported nearly 7.2 million COVID-19 cases and more than 206,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. As the virus has surged throughout the year, the pandemic has converged with other major election year concerns, such as the economy, education, housing, and transportation. Political disputes over the pandemic response, including the vaccine development process, social distancing, and face masks, have created cultural flashpoints.
Major health care policy changes have highlighted several hot-button issues as well. The fate of the Affordable Care Act hangs in the balance as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments beginning Nov. 10 on a case that could overturn the law. The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, along with the likely approval of conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett as her replacement, have reignited debates about the balance of the judicial branch and the potential effects on health care-related rulings for years to come.
Other pocketbook issues of concern include drug costs and contraceptive coverage. Regulatory practices that shifted due to the pandemic, including virtual doctor appointments and the gap in access to care for vulnerable communities, have raised major health care-related questions as well.
In a similar poll on Medscape, WebMD’s site for health care professionals, an even larger majority of 400 doctors and nurses say health care policies and the pandemic response would be a major factor in their voting choices. About 93% of doctors and 94% of nurses say their chosen presidential candidate’s policies on health care are a major factor. More than 60% of each group say they are “very important.”
WebMD’s poll results varied by age as well. Adults 65 and older were most likely to say both the COVID-19 response and their candidate’s health care policies were “very important,” which could align with data that shows that, in general, older American face higher risks for severe COVID-19 infection and health-related economic losses.
About a quarter of older readers say both the pandemic response and health care policies are important. The trend decreases by age, with less than 3% of those under age 25 and about 5% of those between ages 25 and 34 seeing either issue as important.
While the WebMD poll was done before Tuesday’s first presidential debate, a majority of readers already said they were aware of the candidates’ polices on health care. A little more than 59% said they had a good understanding of the candidates’ platforms, and about 24% said “somewhat.” The rest were unsure or said they didn’t have a good understanding.