"We're caught in the polarization of this issue," with the
most partisan voters and candidates moving ever further apart, said Blendon, a
polling guru who has been tracking public opinion on health care since the
Clinton Administration. News accounts, such as the New York Times story Wednesday about the congressional race in Charlottesville, VA, show the Republican "playbook" for the 2010 campaign making health care a prominent issue in many House and Senate races by "largely keeping Democrats on the defensive about the Obama presidency's signature domestic achievement." A recent Pew Research Center-National Journal poll found that more than seven out of 10 responded that a congressional candidate's position on the health care law will play a role in how they vote, with the expected partisan divide among the two major parties and independents far more split.
Ironically, despite the partisan political fur flying among
Democratic and Republican candidates, Blendon said the polling shows that overall "slightly more
people are in favor of implementing the bill than not ... In terms of the bottom
line, the country is about evenly divided." As was the case when the bill passed, many polls show that a majority of Americans neither favor nor oppose the federal health
care reform law. The October Harvard poll found that 41 percent of registered
voters say they are for repealing or dismantling it, while 49 percent of them support implementing
or even expanding the law.
Expanding it? Huh? Apparently ignoring the current political reality--and the pundits--nearly one-third of registered voters still think Congress should do more
by passing changes to increase the government's role in the health care system,
perhaps with a public insurance option or more cost controls. And among those
who expect to vote Democratic, nearly half support a bigger program (which may
well be a good idea, but it surely ain't
gonna happen with so much anti-government sentiment gathering steam!).
The economy and jobs are obviously at the top of voter concerns in this election, but the Harvard study noted that "polls suggest that health is an important but secondary voting issue in
this election." While about six out of 10 Americans polled say that the economy or jobs
would be extremely important to their voting decision, more than four in 10 said the
same about health care or health care reform (on the same order as concern about taxes). Concern about the deficit and
federal spending fell in between.
But voters have a way of linking these things together, particularly
those voters who don't like the health reform bill. The Harvard poll found that three-fourths of those expecting
to vote Republican think that the economy will be worse off because of the new
law, compared to only about 10 percent of Democrat-leaning voters. About 40 percent think the opposite, that the economy will be better off because of the
health law, while half of those voting Democratic think it won't make much difference
one way or the other to the economy.