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EY | Eight key issues for 2020 US elections

With US voters beginning to cast ballots, many are seeking to gauge how the results of the 2020 US elections will shape the US legislative and regulatory environment on a range of issues affecting workers, companies and the economy; as well as environmental issues, global trade and supply chains.

Election day outcomes will determine US government approaches to a host of pressing public policy challenges and provide the path forward on many significant issues for years to come. This publication from the Ernst & Young LLP Office of Public Policy explores eight key issues for the 2020 elections and what to expect under the potential scenarios.

1. COVID-19

The pandemic will continue to dominate the daily lives of Americans for the near term and well into the next presidential administration. The directional trend of the country’s COVID-19 cases and the performance of the economy likely will be key factors for undecided voters going into November’s presidential election. Progress on the development of a vaccine, reopening schools and businesses, and other signs of recovery are likely to influence voter sentiment.

2. Economic recovery and job creation

Regardless of who wins the elections (for the presidency and control of each chamber of Congress), significant attention will have to be paid to economic recovery as the US will still be fighting the pandemic and dealing with the economic ramifications of closures and lockdowns. Several factors, along with the unique nature of the current health and economic crisis, are impacting the speed and scale of economic recovery and will influence policymaking in the months ahead.

3. US-China relations and trade

The scrutiny of China by Washington policymakers over the last year, especially with the advent of the pandemic, is bipartisan. This emphasis has led each candidate to become more nationalistic in economic matters, boosting the US supply chain and domestic manufacturing in their campaign platforms.

4. Environment

Environmental policy routinely divides Republicans and Democrats, and the platforms and policies of both Trump and Biden are no different. While the business community may be shifting on some environmental issues, the policy debates in Washington remain the same.

5. Social justice

Despite repeated calls for compromise amid months of nationwide protests, Republicans and Democrats have not yet been able to reach consensus and act on social justice reform legislation. There has been policy agreement on several social justice issues, such as tackling the digital divide in both urban and rural communities and promoting access to capital for minorities and promoting minority entrepreneurship. However, disagreements over proposals to relax the liability shield against alleged police misconduct remain very partisan and have hindered action. Momentum for action has now become a campaign issue.

6. Health care

The coronavirus crisis will continue to demand the attention of Congress, but congressional leaders also could face new challenges. Growing federal debt and limited state budgets will make it difficult for either party with control in Congress to advance big-ticket policies — such as enabling permanent telehealth reimbursement or major health care reforms — without also identifying budgetary offsets.

7. Tax matters

Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for revenue will be a dominant theme in tax policy matters. The pandemic has put significant pressure on governments at both the federal and state levels to increase taxes.

8. Technology

Big tech continues to be a focus of congressional inquiry and scrutiny by regulators around issues such as consumer privacy, transparency and market concentration. Policymakers are grappling with the challenge of balancing regulatory oversight of and protections for emerging technologies while promoting innovation and global competitiveness. The relationship between the tech sector and Washington has been increasingly complex and likely will face continued focus after Election Day.


  • Bridget Neill, EY Americas Vice Chair, Public Policy
  • John D. Hallmark, Ernst & Young LLP Principal, Public Policy, and US Political and Legislative Leader

Compliments of Ernst & Young – a member of the EACCNY.