Healthcare: A Winning Issue for Women Candidates?

Poll after poll has health care as a leading concern for voters in the 2020 race. This backs up research from the Women & Politics Institute at American University, which shows that health care is top of mind for women voters. 

Health care has also been a top issue for Democratic primary debate moderators, with questions about it dominating the conversation in several debates so far. During September’s debate, for example, the number of questions about health care was almost double the number about the second-most discussed subject. 

What does this mean for women candidates?

Barbara Lee Family Foundation research shows that this focus on health care gives women candidates from both parties an opportunity. Democratic women have a huge advantage, more than thirty points, over Republican men on health care. And while, traditionally, Republican candidates have a disadvantage in the eyes of voters on healthcare, today a Republican woman can neutralize that disadvantage. 

Being seen as good on health care can help women to be seen as good on the economy, traditionally a more difficult area for women candidates to prove expertise to voters. Now, women get as much credit as men for being strong on the economy when they are strong on other issues like healthcare. Because showcasing economic credentials is especially important for women running for executive office, this linkage between the issues is especially important for women candidates. 

In 2018, we saw that emphasizing access and equity in health care was a winning strategy for women candidates. As the member of the household who often makes doctor’s appointments, picks the health care plan, and manages the care of any children or elderly relatives, it’s perhaps no surprise that women candidates are able to use their experience with the health care system to connect with voters. 

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