This story is informed by BDN’s Citizens Agenda project, in which we asked you, our readers, to share your priorities, concerns and questions for the 2020 election. Read all stories in this project here.
AUGUSTA, Maine — A second survey by the Bangor Daily News found that readers care more about civil rights and roughly as much about the top-tier issues of health care and the economy than they did before the coronavirus pandemic and protests over police killings.
We offered an online survey to readers who ranked 14 issues in order of importance to them as part of a “citizen agenda” model of covering elections that we are adopting in 2020, revolving around seeking input from readers on topics of interest and focusing on them.
In January, we heard back from more than 500 readers over more than a month. This July and August, we heard back from 202 people over 18 days. The results are not scientific or necessarily representative of our readership, but they were weighted to match party affiliation in Maine. Here are the updated results and our plan for them.
Health care and jobs and the economy were again the top issues on readers’ minds, but civil rights made the biggest jump.
Just like in January, health care and jobs and the economy were the top two issues of interest for readers at large, followed closely by corruption or ethics in third place. That’s no surprise, since the coronavirus has shined a light on those two interconnected subject areas.
These two issues are driven up our list by two different groups of Mainers. Health care is the top priority of Democrats and independents, while Republicans worry most about jobs and the economy amid the virus-induced recession.
But racism, equality and LGBTQ rights rose from last place among all Mainers in January to fifth place in the summer in the wake of protests nationwide and in Maine over the killings of Black people across the country at the hands of police. The state has also seen the widest racial disparities in the nation around those who have contracted the virus.
It has moved up the list primarily because of Democrats who now rank it third, one spot behind climate change and the environment. But Republicans who ranked it last in the winter now rank it fourth from last, showing that the issue is more broadly on the radar in the country’s whitest state.
We now plan to use these rankings to plan coverage and prepare debates. You also may be hearing from us.
We are now in the process of planning stories with less than three months to go before the 2020 election. These answers — and questions that readers suggested — will guide our policy coverage as we dig into candidates’ stances. We are also co-hosting the first debate in the U.S. Senate race on Sept. 11 with News Center Maine and the Portland Press Herald. Both BDN readers and these issues will have roles in the debate.
In the next day or so, we will be sending emails to everyone who has participated in the survey so far to ask and solicit more questions. We will keep communicating on this process directly, online and in the paper.