Thursday’s GOP primary debates covered economic, political, and social issues typical of a Republican primary election.
But how do those topics measure up against what Americans say they care about most?
Topics for both the 5pm and 9pm debate were relatively similar. Both sets of moderators asked the candidates questions about their own electability and then split the time between domestic and foreign issues. The domestic and foreign issues included were: immigration, healthcare, shrinking government, economic growth, abortion, same-sex marriage, terrorism in the Middle East, cyber warfare, and the Iran nuclear deal.
However, the moderators’ questions lent themselves more to sensational soundbites rather than a detailed discussion of, say, each candidate’s plan to attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act or realistically address illegal immigration.
A February Gallup poll found that Americans rated dissatisfaction with government as the number one problem facing the United States.
Questions on issues about partisan gridlock and electoral reform didn’t make the cut last night even though it is a top priority for voters. While candidates were quick to disagree with that the “Obama–Clinton” way of governing, solutions were left out.
Another poll by Zogby, conducted for the US Conference of Mayors, found 65 percent of respondents rated improving infrastructure as a high priority at the local level. Again, questions on improving or maintaining highways and bridges weren’t addressed.
The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the U.S. a D+ in infrastructure safety and maintenance. In addition, there are 70,000 structurally unsound bridges that Americans drive on everyday.
The economy and jobs are America’s 2nd and 3rd greatest policy priorities for the President and Congress according to Pew. So, what were the candidates specific plans to address them?
Most candidates outlined their plans to cut taxes, but stopped short of discussing exactly how their plan would solve the economic concerns many voters have over stagnant incomes.
There was absolutely no discussion of expanding voting rights or reforming electoral institutions.Caitlin Hurkes
What about the number one issue millennials care about – student loans and affordable tuition?
In 2004, student loans totaled $260 billion and have jumped to $1.2 trillion in 2014. Demos finds the main attribute to rising tuition costs is a decrease in state expenditures. Many of the candidates boasted about their successes in decreasing state programs, but simultaneously argued the need to help the youth achieve a solid education. It will be difficult for any of the GOP candidates to win the millennial vote without addressing student loan debt.
Of course a discussion of every problem that ails America would be unrealistic. However, for future GOP debates, perhaps it would be informative for the questions to revolve around what priorities Americans have. The same might be said for the Democratic candidates as well.
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