US election: The key issues

Key issues Americans had to ponder as they chose to keep Barack Obama in office for another four years.

President Obama on the stump Mitt Romney on the stump

Key issues

Obama

Romney

US automobile worker

Economy

Signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, known as the stimulus, a $768bn (£489bn) package of tax cuts and investment in education, infrastructure, energy research, health, and other programmes; Backed a bailout of the US auto industry; signed trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea

Plan centres on tax cuts, repeal of Obama's 2010 healthcare reform law and repeal of 2010 Wall Street and banking regulations, and in general the reduction of other regulations he says stifle economic growth; Opposed the auto industry bailout; proposes to reduce federal spending significantly but gives few details about which programmes he would cut

Hundred dollar bill being handed over

Taxes

Has cut effective taxes for most Americans; would repeal Bush-era tax cuts for households making more than $250,000 a year; proposes the "Buffet rule" named for billionaire Warren Buffet, which would increase the effective tax rate paid by millionaires

Would make permanent all Bush-era tax cuts, further cut individual income tax rates, eliminate taxes on investment income, repeal the estate tax, and reduce the corporate income tax rate. According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, taxpayers at high income levels would see the greatest benefit. Would make up the revenue by closing unspecified tax loopholes

Military parade in Tehran

Iran

Says he is determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon; opposes a near-term military strike by US or Israel on Iran's nuclear facilities; emphasises need for a diplomatic solution but warns "that window is closing" and has said "all options are at the table"; signed new sanctions against Iran's central bank, oil revenues and financial system

Says it is unacceptable for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon; says military action "remains on the table" and analysts say he presents a clearer military threat to Iran; would send Navy ships to patrol the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf; calls for more sanctions; would publicly back Iranian opposition groups

New York City Police officer

National security and war

Has killed much of al-Qaeda's leadership, including Osama Bin Laden; pulled US troops out of Iraq; agreed to a $487m reduction in defence spending over 10 years with congressional Republicans

Would spend heavily on military hardware and invest in missile defence, adding an estimated $100bn to the Pentagon's budget, while reducing the civilian defence bureaucracy

US soldiers on patrol in Afghanistan

Afghanistan

Initially increased the number of troops in Afghanistan; has begun a draw-down of US troops with the combat mission to end by 2014

Has said his "goal" would be "a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014" but pledges to review withdrawal plans and base them "on conditions on the ground as assessed by our military commanders"

Bottle of pills

Healthcare

Vast 2010 healthcare reform law aims for universal health insurance coverage by requiring individuals who are not otherwise covered to purchase insurance, while restricting insurers' ability to deny coverage based on pre-existing ailments; The law offers states grants to increase enrolment of poor people in the Medicaid public insurance programme

Would seek repeal of Mr Obama's health law, though it is modelled on a law he signed in Massachusetts; would return most health policy to the states; would limit doctor malpractice lawsuits; would encourage individuals without insurance to buy it on the private market, including by purchasing it in other states with lighter coverage requirements and lower costs

US-Mexican border

Illegal immigration

Used executive power to grant legal status to certain young illegal immigrants, bypassing Republicans in Congress; Has dramatically increased deportations of illegal immigrants

Criticises Mr Obama's "stopgap" measure on young illegal immigrants but does not say whether he would overturn it; Says the US should encourage migrants to "self-deport" by making life hard for them

Pro-choice and Pro-life protesters

Abortion

Supports abortion rights; appointed two Supreme Court justices who appear to favour abortion rights

Says "My presidency will be a pro-life presidency", though he supported abortion rights when he was running for governor Massachusetts in 2002;

Supports overturning the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling legalising abortion and allowing states to decide whether abortion should be legal; would strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood women's health clinics

Cooling towers

Energy

Supports investment in clean energy such as wind turbines and advanced car batteries; tightened car fuel efficiency and emissions standards; blocked development of the Keystone oil pipeline to move oil sands crude from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, saying the US had not had sufficient time to judge its environmental impact

Would ease regulations hindering coal-burning power plants, oil exploration and nuclear power plant construction; would encourage drilling for oil in the Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelves; proposes to ease regulations Pledges to build the Keystone pipeline

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