When it comes to the November midterm election, nearly 1 in 10 voters in a recent poll say the health reform law will be the most important factor they consider when deciding how to vote on a certain candidate.
That may seem like a small margin, but veteran pollster Peter Hart of the left-leaning Hart Research Associates said they can make a serious impact in an election year when the White House isn’t on the line.
“Intensity on issues make all the difference in the world,” Hart said at an America’s Health Insurance Plans conference Thursday. “In the end of the day, there are certain blocs of voters that make all the difference…It’s the issue that motivates people, that becomes important in the off year.”
Of the 9 percent of voters who said the Affordable Care Act would be their top determining factor in casting a vote, 30% support the law while 60% oppose it. The poll, which was conducted by Hart and Bill McInturff, co-founder of the conservative polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, was in the field from February 16-20. They surveyed 800 registered voters on landline and cell phones, and their findings have a margin of error of 3.5 percent. Americas Health Insurance Plans sponsored the poll.
McInturff agreed that the intensity certain voters felt over the health reform law was historically unusual. “Nine percent is quite high compared to those other precedents,” McInturff said at the conference.
Hart and McInturff said they typically get about 5 percent of voters who are intensely focused on one issue, like abortion or gun control, as a determining factor for how they cast their ballots.
“When you stop and think about whether it be abortion or other issues of those types, look how much they drive coverage and candidates time,” Hart said.
McInturff and Hart also said there was not enough time for Democrats to repair the largely negative perceptions of the Affordable Care Act ahead of the midterm elections.
“In the terms of trying to litigate this for Democrats in the course of the next 243 days, don’t do it,” Hart said. “If the sense is ‘We’re going to be able to persuade the public, I think it’s too difficult a chore.’”
Despite some voters’ strong opinions, Hart and McInturff found that 20 percent of those surveyed said they did not have an opinion on the law. Within that group, they found the majority said the Affordable Care Act made them hopeful, while 39 percent said it made them fearful. Those findings mean that opinions on the law are not yet finalized among a large portion of the American electorate, Hart and McInturff said.