HSPH Researchers Analyze Election Polls for Voter Opinions on Public Health Issues

Based on analysis of polls conducted during the November elections, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have predicted tension in the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and in future budget negotiations regarding Medicare funding,

The researchers drew from data collected from 27 different polls, including exit polls from election day and several conducted in the months leading up to the election.

Health Policy and Political Analysis professor Robert J. Blendon, co-author of the report, has produced a similar analysis for every presidential election since 1988. For this year’s study, he worked alongside John M. Benson and Amanda S. Brulé, both researchers at the School of Public Health.

Analysis of the data depicts a country sharply divided along partisan lines.

“On many of the issues, it’s almost as if people are living in two different countries,” Blendon said. “We knew that people were polarized, but we didn’t realize the answers would be far apart.”

Few issues demonstrate this polarization more emphatically than the Affordable Care Act, which 78 percent of President Barack Obama voters favored implementing or expanding—a sharp contrast to the 84 percent of Mitt Romney voters who favored repealing part or all of the law.

While the Affordable Care Act will likely be implemented as planned in 2014 following Obama’s November victory, doing so will not be a smooth process, Blendon said.

Republican governors control 30 states, while Republican congressmen control the House of Representatives. Blendon said these politicians, elected in large part by Republican voters who overwhelmingly oppose the Affordable Care Act, will likely refuse to implement key parts of the Act in their own states.

“Many people [who were] cheering when the elections were over said now the Affordable Care Act is law,” Blendon said. “In some parts of the country, it will be, but in other parts, this is going to drag on for many years.”

The polls also demonstrated that a majority of both Obama and Romney voters oppose cuts to Medicare, an area of the budget that House Republicans have proposed cutting back on in anticipation of the fiscal cliff.

“Seeing how opposed people are to some kinds of changes really drives home the point that I personally would not want to be trying to figure out these negotiations right now,” Benson said.

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