Polling director: Young voters swayed by health care, economy, gun control

Young voters tend to align themselves with candidates who best reflect their positions on health care, the economy and gun control, a top pollster said Tuesday at The Hill’s Bipartisanship and Young America Forum.

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John Della Volpe, polling director at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, told The Hill’s Julia Manchester that those three issues were the top concerns for young voters in the 2018 midterm elections.


“We found that [gun violence prevention] was the single most important driver of the youth vote” last year, Della Volpe said at Tuesday’s event, held in partnership with American University School of Public Affairs and the Kennedy Political Union.

“Health care was number two, the economy number three,” he added.

Lawmakers at the event weighed in on some of those topics, while also acknowledging the need to work with colleagues across the aisle, particularly when it comes to passing legislation. 

Rep. Katie HillKatherine (Katie) Lauren HillThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by The American Investment Council – Trump takes his ‘ready to reopen’ mantra on the road The Hill’s Campaign Report: Democrat concedes in California House race Republican flips House seat in California special election MORE (D-Calif.) called on young voters to “elect new senators” so that the Senate could approve House-passed bills on gun violence prevention.

Rep. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann Dingell18 states fight conservative think tank effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards Pelosi: George Floyd death is ‘a crime’ OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Coal company sues EPA over power plant pollution regulation | Automakers fight effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards | EPA watchdog may probe agency’s response to California water issues MORE (D-Mich.) told Steve Clemons, an editor-at-large at The Hill, she has always aimed to have a Republican work with her on legislation she’s sponsoring. She cited her husband, the late Rep. John DingellJohn DingellThe continuous whipsawing of climate change policy A quiet, overlooked revolution in congressional power The Memo: Trump tests limits of fiery attacks during crisis MORE (D-Mich.), as saying: “To write good legislation you start in the middle.”

GOP Reps. Buddy CarterEarl (Buddy) Leroy CarterLoeffler works to gain traction with conservatives amid Collins primary bid Republicans came to the table on climate this year Republicans storm closed-door hearing to protest impeachment inquiry MORE (Ga.) and John Curtis (Utah) discussed climate change, with Carter saying that while he believed humans are playing a role in changing the climate, there may be differing opinions as to the degree. 

He went on to call the Green New Deal, proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezAttorney says 75-year-old man shoved by Buffalo police suffered brain injury How language is bringing down Donald Trump Highest-circulation Kentucky newspaper endorses Charles Booker in Senate race MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyEngel scrambles to fend off primary challenge from left Markey touts past praise from Kennedy: ‘He does an incredible job’ Progressive Caucus co-chair endorses Kennedy in Massachusetts Senate primary MORE (D-Mass.), “pie in the sky” and “the most hilarious thing you will ever read.”

He said “mitigation, adaptation and innovation” are better approaches in combating climate change.

On health care, Carter said, “We as a country have to make a decision: Is health care a right?”

The debate over rights vs. privileges also extended to a discussion about tuition for higher education, another top issue for young voters. 

Speaking to an audience filled with college students, Curtis struck a different tone from the numerous Democrats, including presidential candidates, who have called for either debt-free or tuition-free higher education.

Curtis, whose home state has the lowest average student loan debt, said Utah is “probably the most fiscally conservative, personal responsibility state on the planet.” 

“We believe there’s consequences and accountability,” he said. “There’s kind of a mindset that you don’t go to school if you can’t afford to pay for it.”

Democrats, meanwhile, called for more affordable health care and drug prices.

“Honestly, I think that if we go into the elections, Democrats and Republicans, and we haven’t done something about the cost of drugs, we’re all going to be defeated,” Dingell said.

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