U.S. midterm elections: 4 key issues for voters heading to the polls

WATCH ABOVE: How the U.S. midterm elections work

After months of campaigning, the American midterm elections have arrived, with voters having the option to shape the second half of U.S. President Donald Trump’s presidency.

Over 32 million U.S. citizens have already voted in advance polls, while others are waiting for election day on Tuesday.

READ MORE: U.S. midterm elections — what they are, how they work and why they matter

All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up for grabs. And 35 Senate seats are in play, as are almost 40 governorships and the balance of power in virtually every state legislature.

Will Trump keep control of the House and Senate? Or will the Democrats celebrate a victory and seize total legislative control?

“The best predictor of how someone will vote is party identification,” John McAndrews, a researcher in U.S. politics at the University of Toronto, said.

Although people tend to overwhelmingly vote for their party, McAndrews said, there are key issues that may motivate people to head to the polls rather than stay home. Here are some of those issues.

WATCH: Democrats’ final push focuses on health care, not Trump

Brett Kavanaugh

Brett Kavanaugh’s contested confirmation to the Supreme Court is likely to hang over the midterm elections.

“Kavanaugh had the effect of unifying some anti-Trump voters,” Ryan Hurl, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto, said. He added that voters who may have swung in any direction in the past may now be taking a stand against his confirmation.

According to a CBS poll, after Kavanaugh’s nomination last month, voters in Texas, Tennesse, Arizona and New Jersey said the fierce debate over his alleged sexual misconduct motivated them to get out and vote in November.


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For example, in the Arizona Senate race, the poll said Democrats may benefit from the confirmation. Among Arizona voters who said they might still change their mind about whom to support, 30 per cent said Kavanaugh’s confirmation would make them more likely to consider voting for a Democrat, while only 10 per cent said the same for a Republican.

But the “motivation to vote” after the Kavanaugh hearing may be different in Texas, where 73 per cent of Republicans said the matter is incentivizing them more, compared to 60 per cent of Democrats.

WATCH: Early, absentee voting in 2018 midterms already double from 2014 as U.S. heads into Election Day

Migrant caravan

The migrant caravan headed towards the United States border seems to be dominating the midterm elections, at least for the Republicans.

“Getting people to the polls is part of the story here. Republicans are thinking that pushing the immigration issue will encourage people to go vote, who otherwise may have taken a pass on the election,” McAndrews said.

MAP: Where the migrant caravan began, and why people are fleeing these countries

In response to the thousands of Central Americans trudging towards the U.S. border in hopes of better economic opportunities, Trump is heavily pushing the anti-immigration message. Around 5,200 troops have duly been dispatched to the border as a show of force by the president.

Democrats have argued the Republicans have leapt on the caravan issue as a distraction from the problems of health care funding and the future of relations with Saudi Arabia over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“The president is desperate to change the subject from health care to immigration because he knows that health care is the number one issue Americans care about,” Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi responded in a recent joint statement. “Democrats are focused like a laser on health care and will not be diverted.”

Donald Trump

In a CBS poll on the midterm election, Trump was another determinant in how people will vote.

According to the poll, most voters who plan to vote for Democrats said they will be doing so in opposition to Trump, while most who choose the Republicans said their vote will be to support the president.

WATCH: Midterm math: How many seats are needed to win?

History may also not work in Trump’s favour.

“Presidents virtually always lose seats in the midterms,” McAndrews said. “It’s kind of thought as a referendum on presidents.”


READ MORE:
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Historically, the party of the sitting president has nearly always lost seats in the House. The Cook Political Report said this has occurred in 35 of the 38 midterm elections held since the U.S. Civil War ended in 1865.

Barack Obama’s Democrats lost 63 House seats during the midterm in 2010, while the Republicans lost 30 seats during George W. Bush’s second term in 2006.

WATCH: Will U.S. midterms shift the balance of power?

Health care

Health care may not be grabbing national headlines like the migrant caravan, but the issue is still an important one for voters, according to Public Religion Research Institute, a non-profit research organization in the U.S.

Polling from the institute showed Americans stating that the cost of health care is the biggest issue for them going into the midterm elections.

“Health care is an issue that seems to be winning for the Democrats,” Hurl said. “And tax cuts are not working for the Republicans.”

WATCH: Trump tweets Obamacare ‘essentially repealed’ by tax bill, but is it?

The Republican-majority Congress failed to overturn the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) in 2017.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell suggested last month that Republicans could take another stab at trying to repeal Obamacare if they keep their majorities.

Democrats have been campaigning to keep the Affordable Care Act, maintain protections for preexisting conditions and work to make coverage universal and affordable.

— With files from Rahul Kalvapalle

WATCH: What Americans want from the midterm elections

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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