From the NHS to immigration: Key election issues that will decide who wins

Sunak, Starmer and Tice
Sunak, Starmer and Tice

With a general election called, political parties will spend the coming days attempting to pre-empt the issues their candidates will face on the doorstep.

Manifestos, stump speeches and debates will centre on these topics as politicians attempt to convince the public that they have the answers.

Based on polling, the election issues are clear: the NHS, the economy and immigration are the top three concerns of the public.

According to YouGov, around half the public view the economy as one of their three most pressing issues. The NHS, at 44 per cent, comes second and immigration at 41 per cent is third.

A distant fourth place is housing (24 per cent) and crime and the environment come next (both with 21 per cent apiece).

The economy

Unsurprisingly, the economy has exploded into the forefront of people’s minds.

As inflation hit its highest point in October 2022, a forty-year high of 11 per cent, so did public concern on the issue.

At that point, 71 per cent of the public put it as a top concern, the highest since the economic crisis.

The Conservatives can take some solace that it is, once again, beginning to decline as a concern; a potential sign of economic recovery, but perhaps a little too late to benefit the Conservatives at the general election.


Healthcare had been steadily heading up the public’s consciousness throughout the 2010s, as austerity measures and worsening “winter crises” drew attention to a struggling NHS.

Unsurprisingly, Covid pushed the NHS to its highest level on record at 71 per cent.

There was a short-lived reprieve in concern in mid-2022, but as the NHS has failed to bounce back from the pandemic with record waiting times, the health service will remain firmly on the political agenda during the campaign.

Immigration & Asylum

Reform UK has branded this election the “immigration election”.

If that is the case, it will be the fourth since 2010, with the issue appearing in the top three concerns in every election except in 2019.

In 2015, the issue was pushed to front-and-centre, as the Conservatives promised a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU if they won.

The vote to leave seemingly solved the issue as concern over immigration fell to around 11 per cent in early-2020.

However, record levels of net migration over the past year have highlighted that Brexit wasn’t a silver bullet on the issue, with immigration once again in the top three.

Who is trusted on the issues?

Labour leads the Conservatives on every issue with one exception – defence.

Less than one in five people consider this a top priority, with the stint of terror attacks in the mid 2010s and the invasion of Ukraine clearly falling down the public’s concerns.

The Conservatives have often presented themselves as the party of law and order, as well as the toughest on immigration.

Until October 2022, the Conservatives led on both of these issues, as well as the economy.

Liz Truss’s premiership was a deciding factor in damaging not just the party’s overall polling, but on credibility across key conservative issues – something Rishi Sunak has failed to recover from.

What about other issues?

Housing has never been as consistently on people’s radar, currently fourth on the list with one in four ranking it as one of their top three issues.

This will be inspired partly by the mortgage crisis brought on by inflation, but also the sheer desperation of renters facing record hikes and an inability to enter the property market themselves.

Crime comes joint fifth on the list, having previously peaked shortly before the pandemic when knife crime figures hit a record high.

When Covid forced crime rates down, so did people’s concern on the issue. However, record high thefts, increasing knife crime and low detection rates have pushed it back up again.

The environment remains in the top six, but has fallen from its peak in 2021, when the UK hosted the international climate conference in Glasgow. Then, one in three voters put it as their top issue.

The issue spikes every time there are heatwaves – a not entirely unrealistic possibility for a July election.