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From The Economy To Race, See Where The Candidates Stand On The Big Issues

Eva Bee
Getty Images/Ikon Images

This election has been particularly noisy.

But when all the Twitter storms and heated exchanges (maybe) fade away after Nov. 8, the issues that affect real voters will remain.

With that in mind, we set out to create a cheat sheet on where each candidate stands on the issues voters care about most. The issues we chose to highlight come from the top 10 issues voters said were "very important" to their vote, according to a 2016 poll from the Pew Research Center.

Those issues are, in order: The economy, terrorism, foreign policy, health care, gun policy, immigration, social security, education, Supreme Court appointments and the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities.

We've tracked where the major candidates — Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein — fall on each issue. We chose these four candidates because they are on the ballot in most states.

We've categorized each candidate's stance in various subcateories with a yes or a no, if it truly was that simple. Some were given an "it's complicated" rating, meaning that the candidate hasn't put forth a plan, commented publicly or has changed positions.

We will continue to update their stances as they evolve. Is there a subcategory you'd like to see but don't? E-mail us at nprpolitics@npr.org.

Economy / Terrorism / Foreign Policy / Health / Gun Policy / Immigration / Social Security / Education / Supreme Court Appointments / The Treatment of Racial and Ethnic Minorities

The Economy

Though the country as a whole has recovered in the eight years since the 2008 recession, many parts of the country are still struggling. Partly for that reason, economic policy continues to be a major theme on the campaign trail. Candidates have sparred over the role that the tax code should play in economic growth, how to solve the social security problem and more.

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  • Terrorism

    With several high-profile terror attacks happening within the last year — including the December shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. — thwarting terrorism has been a common topic this election cycle. Donald Trump's extreme proposals in particular — from condoning waterboarding to what he calls "extreme vetting" of refugees — have largely fueled the discussion, causing other candidates to respond.

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  • Foreign Policy

    Foreign policy as a topic is a bit of a catch-all, as it deals with the United States' relationship with other countries. It covers everything from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of Trump's most commonly evoked foes, to the Iran nuclear deal, to U.S. participation in NATO. When it comes to what America's role in the world should be, Trump, Johnson and Stein all take more isolationist approaches than Clinton.

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  • Health

    The health of the candidates themselves came up this fall — with Clinton's bout of pneumonia in September and Trump saying Clinton lacks the stamina to be president — but health care as a policy issue itself hasn't been a frequent talking point during the election. The Affordable Care Act and abortion have remained top of mind and paid family leave has recently received some attention, but other issues, like the opioid addiction crisis, have come up less often.

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  • Gun Policy

    Gun policy has been a big issue this year, amplified after the June shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that killed 49 people. Clinton has been a strong advocate for tighter gun laws, which Trump has said, falsely, means she wants to "take your guns away."

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  • Immigration

    Immigration has been one of the most visible campaign issues this election cycle, partly because of the Syrian refugee crisis. Also, because Trump entered the race in June 2015 declaring that Mexico was sending drug dealers, criminals and rapists to the United States and proposed building a wall between the two countries. Trump has stood by that proposal, advocating throughout his campaign for a tight border. Other candidates vary in their stances on refugees and on illegal immigration.

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  • Social Security

    As the baby boomers age, social security will continue to be top of mind as voters choose the next president. Candidates have proposed several scenarios to solve the problem of social security — that soon there will be too many people using it and not enough people paying in. Those proposals include raising the retirement age and increasing taxes.

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  • Education

    Education affects just about everyone — if you don't know a child in school, you certainly used to be one. But other than occasional talk of teachers, school choice or college debt, this issue has been nearly nonexistent during the 2016 election cycle, in comparison to more high profile topics like immigration and gun control.

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  • Supreme Court Appointments

    Antonin Scalia's death last February vacated the Supreme Court justice's seat on the bench and ignited a fight between Republicans and Democrats over whether or not the seat should be filled during an election year. Both sides of the aisle hope to fill the void with a judge whose views align with their own party. President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland, a moderate, but it's unlikely the open seat will be filled before the inauguration of the next president in January.

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  • The Treatment of Racial and Ethnic Minorities

    The relationship between police and communities of color has been a huge theme on the campaign trail, but in very partisan ways. Trump has focused on supporting law enforcement and earned the support of the country's largest police union. Clinton, on the other hand, supports Black Lives Matter and has called for increased scrutiny and training for police.

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  • Ashley Young and Alexander Tin contributed to this story. Alyson Hurt designed the charts.

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Meg Anderson is an editor on NPR's Investigations team, where she shapes the team's groundbreaking work for radio, digital and social platforms. She served as a producer on the Peabody Award-winning series Lost Mothers, which investigated the high rate of maternal mortality in the United States. She also does her own original reporting for the team, including the series Heat and Health in American Cities, which won multiple awards, and the story of a COVID-19 outbreak in a Black community and the systemic factors at play. She also completed a fellowship as a local reporter for WAMU, the public radio station for Washington, D.C. Before joining the Investigations team, she worked on NPR's politics desk, education desk and on Morning Edition. Her roots are in the Midwest, where she graduated with a Master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.