The Student Voter's Guide to Campaign Issues

Let's face it — the average voter spends more time researching hypothetical illnesses on the internet than researching who to vote for. However, dedicating a little time to finding out where different candidates and political parties stand on key issues allows you to cast a more educated vote.

The good news is that you don't need a political science background to stay informed. To help you make an educated decision when you head to the voting booth in 2020, we've put together a cheat sheet highlighting each party's political agenda.

Education and the Election

Candidates aren't just debating about what the government should do to ensure quality education. They are debating how much education should cost. If you're a student, these conversations will have a direct impact on you and your life, so it's important to know where you stand.

Rising College Tuition

In-state tuition at public colleges has increased by 221% in the last 20 years. Each political party has different proposals on how to make a college education affordable, including free public school tuition and privatizing accreditation requirements.

Student Loan Debt

According to CNBC, the class of 2018 graduated with an average of $29,200 in student debt. Almost 70% of African American students who borrowed money and entered college in 2003 will not be able to repay their loans by 2024, and about 66% of outstanding education debt is held by women.

School Choice

Conservatives prioritize school choice and think that charter schools and vouchers will improve educational opportunities for K-12 students while liberals want federal funding to remain focused on the public school system.

Party Platform

Democrats

  • Support debt-free college
  • Want to cut interest rates on student loans for future undergraduates
  • Want to make it possible to discharge student debt in bankruptcy and put a moratorium on student loan payments to all federal loan borrowers when needed
  • Will continue to support historically black and minority serving schools
  • Will continue the Loan Forgiveness Program
  • Will crack down on for-profit schools

Republicans

  • No stance on regulating costs, but oppose "any regulation that increases college costs" and support decoupling accreditation from federal financing to lower costs
  • Oppose the federal government issuing or managing student loans
  • No stance on discharging student loan debt in bankruptcy
  • Support school choice via charter schools, education savings accounts (ESAs), vouchers, and tuition tax credits for school choice
  • Want to eliminate federal students loans and leave them to private loan companies
  • Want to reduce the application of Title IX

Other Important Issues

The Economy

The economy is always a key issue. Each party presents different approaches to creating jobs, ensuring fair trade agreements, increasing minimum wage, and leveraging taxes.

Party Platform

Democrats

  • Supports the Dodd-Frank Act (Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act)
  • Support raising the minimum wage
  • Support increasing taxes for the wealthiest U.S. citizens/li>

Republicans

  • Supports repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act (Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act)
  • Believe minimum wage should be decided by states
  • Support tax decreases for citizens of all income levels and eliminating federal income tax for individuals earning under a certain income
The Environment

More than 45% of Americans believe that global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetimes and 66% believe it is caused by human activity, according to Gallup. But that's not the only environmental issue up for debate. Each party also has strong opinions about renewable energy, drilling on protected lands, and international environmental protection agreements.

Party Platform

Democrats

  • Support legislation that helps get us to 50% of energy from clean energy sources
  • Support the Clean Power Plan
  • Oppose the Keystone Pipeline
  • Support a carbon tax
  • Support reform of fossil fuel leasing on public lands and oppose drilling in the arctic and off the Atlantic Coast
  • Support the Paris Agreement

Republicans

  • Oppose mandatory labeling of genetically modified food
  • Repealed the Clean Power Plan
  • Aim to complete the Keystone Pipeline as soon as possible
  • Oppose any carbon tax
  • Support increasing domestic energy production, including on public lands, to reduce reliance on foreign oil
  • Oppose both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement
Healthcare

Since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, the percentage of uninsured Americans has decreased from 17.8% to 10% in 2016 among the nonelderly population. The percentage increased for the first time in 2017 to 10.2%, which meant that 27.4 million people were still uninsured. Opponents to nationalized health care are running on a platform to repeal it.

Party Platform

Democrats

  • Support the Affordable Care Act
  • Support an expansion of Medicaid
  • Support caps on out-of-pocket costs for prescription medications
  • Support a woman's right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy (pro-choice)

Republicans

  • Support the repeal the Affordable Care Act
  • Support reducing or eliminating Medicaid
  • Urge for transparency in healthcare costs
  • Support a permanent ban on federal funding for abortion, including all health care plans that cover abortion
Gun Control

With 340 deaths resulting from mass shootings in the U.S. this year, as of October 2019, gun control has become an even more heavily debated issue than ever before. Unfortunately, parties disagree on what approach to take in solving the problem.

Party Platform

Democrats

  • Support the expansion of background checks
  • Support bans on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines (LCAM's)

Republicans

  • Oppose laws intended to restrict magazine capacity or ban the sale of the most popular and common modern rifle.
  • Oppose federal background checks and/or licensing requirements for gun owners
Immigration

The debate around immigration exploded when Donald Trump built his campaign on the idea of building a wall to protect the United State's Southern border. Coupled with the fact that more than 4 million Syrian refugees are seeking asylum from violence in their country, immigration is a more contested topic than ever before.

Party Platform

Democrats

  • Support DACA and DAPA
  • Oppose the construction of a wall or other structure to discourage illegal immigration
  • Oppose restrictions on immigrants or refugees based on religious status or country of origin
  • Support immigration reform and fast-tracking the pathway to citizenship for current undocumented immigrants

Republicans

  • Oppose DACA and DAPA
  • Support building a wall along the Southern border of the United States to discourage illegal immigration
  • Support restrictions on immigrants or refugees from countries with ties to terrorism
  • Support stiffer penalties and mandatory minimum sentences for illegal aliens who illegally re-enter the U.S. after deportation
Foreign Policy

Countries on every continent face turmoil, and the different political parties have strong opinions on how the United States' foreign policy should respond to these international issues.

Party Platform

Democrats

  • Support a hard line against Russian territorial claims and vow to work with NATO to continue to fight Russian aggression
  • Support a multi-national negotiated end to Assad's rule of Syria, maintenance of a limited troop presence in Afghanistan, and the current nuclear agreement with Iran
  • Oppose the Kim regime in North Korea and decry China's support of it
  • Support continued participation and leadership in the U.N. and most U.N. conventions and treaties

Republicans

  • Oppose Russian aggressions in Europe and support Ukrainian sovereignty and NATO troops stationed in Poland (though Donald Trump has expressed different personal opinions)
  • Support good relations with Canada, Mexico and Columbia; oppose good relationships with Venezuela and Cuba
  • Oppose North Korea and China's support of their leadership, Chinese aggressions on Taiwan, and Chinese claims to the South China Sea.
  • Oppose current agreements with Iran, Hezbollah's control of Lebanon; support the Kurdish people, the removal of Assad from Syria, a continued partnership with Iraq, and Israel's right to defend itself from attack.
  • Oppose U.N. Agenda 21, the U.N. Convention on Women's Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, and most declarations from the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development. Express deep concerns about the Law of the Sea Treaty.
Jobs and Unemployment

Under President Trump, we've seen the unemployment rate drop as low as 3.9% in 2018 -- the lowest since 2000. It's important for each party to ensure that they keep the American people employed.

Party Platform

Democrats

  • Support raising the minimum wage to $15/hour
  • Believe in using federal investments to rebuild infrastructure
  • Support American manufacturing and making more products in the U.S.
  • Plan to create more green energy jobs
  • Plan to make it easier to start a small business

Republicans

  • Believe minimum wage should be decided by states
  • Want to reduce occupational licensing laws
  • Believe that focusing on economic growth will lead to lower unemployment
  • Do not believe in subsidy and bailout packages
  • Want to relieve restrictions on the free market
Racial Discrimination and Criminal Justice

Pew Research Center has found that more than half of the American public thinks that President Trump has made race relations worse. Many citizens have a negative overall view of the country's progress in this area, making it a hot-button issue.

Party Platform

Democrats

  • Support restoring full protections of the Voting Rights Act
  • Have plans to end institutional racism and recognize its existence
  • Want to eliminate policies that add to the disparity in income between white Americans and the black and latino American communities
  • Want to reform the criminal justice system and end mass incarceration
  • Want to abolish capital punishment

Republicans

  • Caution the creation of new "crimes."
  • Believe capital punishment is lawful
Reproductive Rights and Gender Discrimination

Though in 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protects a woman's right to choose to have an abortion, many states have continued to fight this ruling. On May 15, 2019, Alabama signed into law the Human Life Protection Act, which states that a doctor who performs a banned abortion in the state is guilty of a Class A felony and could face a life sentence. In many states — 45, to be exact — individual healthcare providers are allowed to refuse to participate in an abortion.

Women also continue to be paid less than men for doing the same jobs. There is still much progress to be made in this area and the American public is paying close attention to these issues.

Party Platform

Democrats

  • Support a woman's right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy (pro-choice)
  • Fighting to end gender discrimination
  • Want to include women's rights in the constitution with the Equal Rights Amendment.

Republicans

  • Support a permanent ban on federal funding for abortion, including all healthcare plans that cover abortion
Net Neutrality

Not much has happened since the repeal of Obama-era net neutrality laws, but many want to make sure that it stays that way. Internet service providers have much more power under the Trump administration. The future of net neutrality is uncertain, and the next president will influence which way the scale tips.

Party Platform

Democrats

  • Feel that repealing net neutrality threatens internet freedom

Republicans

LGBTQ+ Issues

Support among Republicans toward same-sex marriage remains low, but has increased over the years. With a majority conservative Supreme Court, many voters expect the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, which granted marriage rights to same-sex couples across the United States, to come under reconsideration.

Party Platform

Democrats

  • Believe American citizens have the right to marry the person they love, regardless of gender
  • Plan to enact discrimination laws that protect the LGBTQ+ community
  • Oppose state efforts that discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community
  • Want LGBTQ+ rights to be included in American's foreign policy to promote LGBTQ+ rights around the world

Republicans

  • Believe that marriage is between one man and one woman
  • Support legislation that requires trasngender people to use bathrooms that correspond with the gender on their birth certificate in government and public buildings
  • Support legislation that promotes religious freedom over protections for the LGBTQ+ community

The Political Parties

There are more than 30 recognized political parties in the United States, but the Republican and Democratic parties have dominated the political landscape since the middle of the 19th century. Registering as a member of a particular political party is not required to vote in a general election, but is required to vote in primary elections in several states. Here is a general description of the Democratic and Republican parties.

Democratic Party

The Democratic Party was founded in 1828 and traces its roots back to the Democratic-Republican Party, founded during Colonial times by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. At its core, the Democratic Party tends to hold views that are more liberal, placing responsibility for governance in the hands of the federal government.

Republican Party

The Republican Party was founded in 1854, primarily by Northern anti-slavery activists. The first Republican President was Abraham Lincoln, who was elected to two terms (1860 and 1864) and assassinated in 1865. The Republican Party is driven by the principles of conservatism, including an emphasis on state and local government, free-market capitalism, and dedication to traditional values.

Disclaimer: BestColleges.com is not affiliated with any political parties, and none of the information on this page is intended as or should be construed as legal advice. The information contained on this page is for general informational purposes only.