Health care emerges as the top single issue among Nevada Democrats

CNN’s Van Jones responds to initial Nevada caucus results showing Sen. Bernie Sanders has an early lead.

Health care once again emerged as the single top issue for Democrats in Nevada in Saturday’s caucuses — though as in Iowa and New Hampshire, the vast majority of voters also said they were more interested in defeating President Donald Trump than in any one issue.

More than 4 in 10 of Democratic caucusgoers in Nevada chose health care as the most important issue in deciding who to support in the race, followed by about a quarter for climate change, around 1 in 6 for income inequality, and around 1 in 10 chose foreign policy.

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Of those who think health care is the top priority, nearly 4 in 10 support Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who advocates replacing private insurance with a government-run “Medicare for All” system.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg — both of whom have proposed a more moderate government-run insurance option — trail Sanders, with each attracting the support of fewer than 2 in 10 caucusgoers who feel health care is most important.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar are the choice of about 1 in 10 of this group.

Health care has been a big issue in all the contests so far, with 42% who said it was their top issue in Iowa and 37% in New Hampshire.

Strikingly, more than 3 in 5 Democratic caucusgoers in Nevada support a government health insurance plan, while a third oppose such a measure. That’s roughly the same share as in Iowa and New Hampshire.

More than half of Nevada Democratic caucusgoers who approve of a single-payer system chose Sanders, while those who oppose it split their vote between Biden and Buttigieg, with Klobuchar coming in third.

The strong backing for a national single-payer system comes even as the state’s largest union poured cold water on such an idea.

The influential Culinary Union, which represents more than 60,000 hotel and casino workers, made clear that it did not support Sanders’ Medicare for All plan, though it opted not to endorse any candidate. The union’s leadership stressed that members fought hard for their health benefits, which are top notch, and value the ability to have choices.

Medicare for All skeptics lean toward more moderate proposals pushed by Biden, Klobuchar and Buttigieg, all of whom would add a government-run insurance option to the Affordable Care Act exchanges but allow unions and employers to keep their private coverage. Warren, on the other hand, supports Medicare for All.

But the focus on health care paled when compared with voters’ top focus — winning. Two thirds say they’d rather a candidate who can beat Trump while a third want a candidate who agrees with them on the issues.

A quarter of caucusgoers said they belong to a labor union, while three quarters don’t. The number who did belong to one was 28% in 2016 and 29% in 2008.

The Nevada caucuses are also more diverse than the first two nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. Around two-thirds of Nevada Democratic caucusgoers identified as white, while almost 1 in 5 said they are Hispanic or Latino, and 1 in 10 are black. In Iowa, only 9% of their Democratic caucusgoers were not white, 11% of Democratic voters in New Hampshire.

Entrance polls were conducted in-person among Nevada caucusgoers as they entered precincts Monday and among early caucusgoers at their polling places. Edison Research conducts the poll for the National Exit Pool, a consortium of news organizations.

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