One of the biggest hot button issues of all time has to be eugenics. In a nutshell, eugenics is the idea that humans should practice selective reproduction in an effort to “improve” the species.
Tara Rodden Robinson, Genetics for Dummies, Wiley, 2005.
hot button noun [C] US SLANG
a subject that is important to people and which they feel strongly about:
Gender issues have become something of a hot button.
Abortion has become a hot button issue. [CALD]
hot button n. Slang
Something that elicits a strong emotional response or reaction:
an issue that became a hot button among younger voters.
hot-button adj. [AHD4]
hot button noun
an emotional and usually controversial issue or concern that triggers immediate intense reaction
hot-button adjective [MWCD]
hot-button issue n phr
something that emotionally motivates people to buy one product over another; also, any goods or services that take advantage of this motivation:
Losing weight is the hot-button issue of the day. [Dictionary.com’s 21st Century Lexicon]
※ 語源については、panic button（非常ボタン）との関連を指摘するひともいる。
A “hot button” issue is any issue that generates a lot of passion among a significant portion of a specific population. Such an issue is one that is very much in the news, thus playing off the figurative meaning of the word “hot” as something that is current. Most “hot button” issues in modern times are ones that concern politicians trying to serve their constituents by tackling these problems. The phrase most likely evolved from the phrase “panic button” into the meaning that is accepted in today’s culture. […] It is best to label something a “hot button” issue when it is both timely and important to a lot of people.
HOT BUTTON – “word or issue that ignites anger, fear, enthusiasm, or other passionate response. The phrase is often hyphenated and used adjectivally in ‘hot-button issue.’ Such an issue, frequently involving values or morals, serves to lift an audience out of its seats. Hot button, perhaps related to ‘panic button,’ began as a marketing term.
Neither the fawning admiration nor the virulent rage seemed close to the truth. I was being labeled and categorized because of my positions and mistakes, and also because I had been turned into a symbol for women of my generation. That’s why everything I said or did ー and even what I wore ー became a hot button for debate.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Living History, Simon & Schuster, 2003.
The U.S. Congress had passed the equal-rights amendment to the Constitution and referred it to the states for ratification, but the requisite three-quarters of the state legislatures had not ratified it and never would. Even so, it was still a hot-button issue among Arkansas’ social conservatives, for several reasons.
Bill Clinton, My Life, Random House, 2004.
Whatever the explanation, after Reagan the lines between Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative, would be drawn in more sharply ideological terms. This was true, of course, for the hot-button issues of affirmative action, crime, welfare, abortion, and school prayer, all of which were extensions of earlier battles. But it was also now true for every other issue, large or small, domestic or foreign, all of which were reduced to a menu of either-or, for-or-against, sound-bite-ready choices. No longer was economic policy a matter of weighing trade-offs between competing goals of productivity and distributional justice, of growing the pie and slicing the pie.
Barack Obama, Audacity of Hope : Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, Crown, 2006.
After the war most Nisei in Japan “switched” allegiances again, like Kawakita, or, perhaps more accurately, allowed their attachment to America, which they kept latent during the war, to re-emerge. Understandably, they tried to use their birthright to leave the starving, war-devastated nation for reunion with family members and opportunities “back home.” The dilemma of Nisei trying to return to the United States was a hot-button issue among Japanese Americans when Naoko Shibusawa, Kawakita’s case materialized in mid-1947 and continued to be throughout his trial and afterward.
Naoko Shibusawa, America’s Geisha Ally : Reimagining the Japanese Enemy, Harvard University Press, 2006.