News US Election 2016

Friday 27 April 2018

US Election Day Explainer: Where do the candidates stand on the five key issues in American politics?

'Nor should Trump be dismissed too readily as a foreign policy buffoon.' (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
'Nor should Trump be dismissed too readily as a foreign policy buffoon.' (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Daire Courtney

Daire Courtney

This election cycle has been overcrowded with scandals, character assassinations and revelations about candidates’ past actions, with little room left for policy talk.

So where do the candidates stand on the big issues for the US and the world abroad?

These are the candidates’ positions on five big issues:

Gun control

The vast gap between the candidates’ opinions on gun control can be summed up by their National Rifle Association ratings: Hillary Clinton has an F, the lowest a candidate can get, and Donald Trump was endorsed by the gun owners’ advocacy group in May.

Hillary Clinton favours an expansion in federal restrictions on gun sales, including background checks, but Trump insists that the existing legislation should be “fixed” as opposed to adding new restrictions.

A man holds a mask of Hillary Clinton at a campaign rally for Donald Trump in Raleigh, North Carolina Picture: Getty
A man holds a mask of Hillary Clinton at a campaign rally for Donald Trump in Raleigh, North Carolina Picture: Getty

Trump opposes restrictions on assault weapon sales, while Clinton wants to reinstate the assault weapons ban, which previously banned weapons that could fire more than 10 rounds per minute.


Donald Trump made quite a U-turn on abortion in the last two years, moving from a publicly pro-choice position to a fervent pro-life stance. Trump has recently said that abortion should only be allowed in the cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is at risk.

Trump is on record saying that women should receive “some form of punishment” for acquiring an abortion. He has also promised to appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn Roe Vs Wade and further restrict abortion.

Clinton, on the other hand, has vowed to protect abortion rights for women under Roe Vs Wade, and continue to fund Planned Parenthood.

At the third debate, when asked about late-term abortions, she said: “I have met with women who have, toward the end of their pregnancy, get worst news one can get.

"That their health is in jeopardy if they continue to carry to term. Or that something terrible has happened or just been discovered about the pregnancy. I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions.”


Obamacare, a set of healthcare reforms which expanded free healthcare and gave 16 million Americans insurance cover, is the centrepiece of the healthcare debate this election cycle.

With Democrats lauding its successes and Republicans bemoaning its cost, this election could make or break Obamacare; particularly since Donald Trump has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and Hillary Clinton has promised to expand the programme.

Donald Trump has promised to “Work with Congress to create a patient-centered health care system that promotes choice, quality, and affordability.”

His explanation for the plan is lacking, but he has emphasised that Obamacare's replacement should be cheaper for both patients and the taxpayer.

Hillary Clinton wants to expand the cover provided under Obamacare to more people by reforming the tax credit system that currently excludes some people or makes cover too expensive.


Neither candidate supports opening borders further, but Donald Trump’s position is far more restrictive, while Hillary Clinton’s focuses on integrating the immigrants already in the country.

Donald Trump has stayed steadfast in his promise to build a wall on the Mexican border and force Mexico to pay for it. He has also promised to fast-track deportations and has stated a number of times that he intends to impose a temporary ban on the entry of Muslims into the country.

Hillary Clinton has promised to protect America’s borders and focus on detaining immigrants who pose a threat to security, but has also promised to “ensure refugees who seek asylum in the U.S. have a fair chance to tell their stories.”

She wants to focus on providing a pathway to citizenship for those immigrants already in the US and to “stop the raids, stop the round-ups, stop the deporting of people who are living here doing their lives, doing their jobs.”

Foreign policy

Border walls notwithstanding, the candidates are much closer on foreign policy than domestic issues. Both have expressed concerns about TTIP and TPP, trade deals currently under negotiation between the US and their allies in Asia and Europe, partially in response to voters in both parties.

Both have pledged to ramp up military action against ISIS and develop tough strategies to combat international terrorism, but their approaches are very different: Hillary Clinton has pushed for a no-fly-zone in Syria which would put the US and Russia at loggerheads, and Trump has argued for more flexibility for Russia.

Hillary Clinton has publicly referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “bully” while Trump has praised Putin as a "strong" leader.

Clinton has also shown herself to be much more pro-Europe, speaking out against Brexit, which Donald Trump praised, and praising the US's NATO allies, whom Donald Trump says need to do more to defend themselves.

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