Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

An AP/NORC poll published late in December found that health care ranked number one on the list of the public's priorities for government. It's a well done and well reported poll, and as the head of a health policy and journalism organization, I suppose I should be happy that health ranked number one.

Expand chart
Adapted from AP-NORC poll; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, but: Having conducted and watched health care polling for decades, I'd caution readers not to over-interpret health care's first place finish, which may not mean very much for upcoming elections. They are unlikely to be about health care and are much more likely to be about the candidates and President Trump.

Between the lines: For one thing, health care has been in the news and hotly debated. So when given a list of issues to choose from on a poll, or asked to name issues on their mind in an open ended question, the public is more likely to pick health care.

The economy is doing well, and health care's other major competitor on a polling list of issues, the tax legislation, has not grabbed the public yet and may not until people begin paying their taxes.

The catch: When a topic like health care ranks high on a list of issues, it doesn't mean voters will vote on that issue. In many races, they are more likely to vote on the basis of how they feel about the candidate overall than on issues. These upcoming elections are also likely to become a referendum on President Trump, as the race in Virginia largely was.

We also cannot assume that when the public picks "health" or "health care" on a poll they always mean the Affordable Care Act, whether that's repealing it for Republicans or protecting it for Democrats.

  • People will give you a typically partisan view of the ACA if you ask for it. But most Americans are not covered by the ACA, and our own polling at the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that the public is mostly concerned their own health care costs.
  • Other health concerns also creep into the mix on various polls, such as CHIP funding and opioids.

What to watch: In the AP/NORC poll, Republicans placed a lower priority on health than Democrats and Independents did; they were about equally likely to pick immigration and taxes as health care. But we know from other polling that Democratic intensity about the ACA has increased, while Republican intensity is flat.

For that reason, Democrats are likely to put forward a variety of health care plans in 2018 and 2020, which will keep health care on the agenda. Health care could be for Democrats what it has been for Republicans in recent elections — a jump starter for the base. This could be the main way in which it plays a role in the election.

The bottom line: It's always good to remember that the top issues in polls are not often the top factors in elections, especially in a year when, one way or another, Donald Trump will be on every ballot.

Go deeper

19 mins ago - Health

White House unveils plan to "quickly" vaccinate kids ages 5-11

Charles Muro,age 13, is inoculated by Nurse Karen Pagliaro at Hartford Healthcares mass vaccination center at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Connecticut. Photo: JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

The White House on Wednesday released its plan to vaccinate children between the ages of 5 and 11, pending authorization from the Food and Drug Administration of the first COVID-19 shot for that age group.

The big picture: The White House said it has secured enough vaccine supply to equip more than 25,000 pediatric and primary care offices, hundreds of school and community health clinics, as well as tens of thousands of pharmacies to administer the shots.

26 mins ago - Sports

Where it stands: Weed policies by U.S. sports league

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With public support for marijuana legalization nearing unanimity, and more athletes using cannabis to treat pain, the four major U.S. sports leagues continue to reduce restrictions and punishments.

Driving the news: NBA players won't be subject to random marijuana testing this season, an extension of an agreement between the league and its players' union that began ahead of the 2020 Orlando restart.

3 hours ago - World

Scoop: Jake Sullivan discussed Saudi-Israel normalization with MBS

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg and Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan raised normalization with Israel during his recent meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, three U.S. and Arab sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Saudi Arabia would be the biggest regional player to sign onto the "Abraham Accords" peace agreement with Israel, and such a major breakthrough would likely convince other Arab and Muslim countries to follow suit.