A new analysis of 37 national opinion polls conducted by 17 survey organizations finds that health care is the second most important issue for likely voters in deciding their 2012 presidential vote.
This is the highest that health care has been ranked as a presidential election issue since 1992. When likely voters were asked to choose from a list of issues, similar to the approach used in election-day exit polls, one in five (20%) named “health care and Medicare” as the most important issue in their 2012 voting choice, far behind “the economy and jobs” (cited by 51%).
“The economy dominates most voters’ thinking in terms of their priorities for choosing a candidate,” said Robert J. Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard School of Public Health and co-author of the analysis that appears as an online Special Report on October 10, 2012 in the New England Journal of Medicine. “But in a close election, the two candidates’ stands on health care issues could help swing the balance among some voters.”
Likely voters who said “health care and Medicare” will be the most important issue in deciding their presidential vote were much more supportive of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) than the public in general is. Despite two and a half years of contentious debate, the public has not changed its view: Americans’ assessment of the ACA remains mixed.
Although several elements of the law are popular, since the law’s passage the majority of Americans (in an average of polls) has not approved of the ACA. Americans have been relatively evenly divided in their opinions. An average of current polls shows that 44% approve of the ACA, and 45% disapprove.
However, among likely voters who said “health care/Medicare was the most important issue in their voting choice, 41% said they were much less likely to vote for a candidate who supported repealing all or part of the ACA; 14% said they were much more likely to vote for such a candidate.
The analysis also looked at the issue of changing Medicare in the future to a system in which the government provides seniors with a fixed sum of money they could use to purchase either private health insurance or Medicare coverage. An average of current polls of the general public shows that 27% favor such a proposed change, while a majority (66%) are opposed. Among likely voters who said “health care/Medicare” was the most important issue in their voting choice, 39% said they were much less likely to vote for a candidate who supported such a change in Medicare; 11% said they were much more likely to vote for such a candidate.