Those Most Likely to Vote in 2010 at Odds with Democrats' Health Care Agenda

Those Most Likely to Vote in 2010 at Odds with Democrats' Health Care Agenda

By Ed Gillespie & Whit Ayres - December 11, 2009

Given the disproportionate share of voters age 55 and older likely to comprise the electorate in next year's mid-term, passage of health care reform legislation would pose a serious risk to Democratic majorities in the House and Senate according to a new survey released today by Resurgent Republic, a non-profit conservative organization that gauges public opinion toward government policy proposals.

The nationwide survey of 1000 voters age 55 and older had a sample in which Democrats enjoyed a seven percentage-point advantage over Republicans (32%-25%) and President Obama enjoyed a favorable rating of 53%. These numbers are similar to recent surveys of voters of all ages. However, voters 55 and older opposed health care reform being debated by congress by 48-39%, with intensity running strongly against the legislation's proponents (40% strongly opposed versus 25% strongly support). This opposition correlated with pluralities now holding a favorable view of Republicans in Congress (46% favorable-42% unfavorable) and an unfavorable view of Democrats in Congress (44% favorable-45% unfavorable), despite the partisan identification of the sample favoring Democrats.

Perhaps more important politically, Independents 55 and older now oppose health care reform by a 52% to 33% margin, view Republicans in Congress favorably (44% to 41%) and view Democrats in Congress unfavorably (52% to 31%).

These voters over 55 rejected every key element of the Obama Administration's arguments in favor of their reform effort, specifically concluding that enactment of health care reform now being debated in Congress would increase rather than decrease their health care costs (61%-14%), insurance and Medicare premiums (61%-13%), the federal deficit (68%-7%) and taxes (76%-3%) and would decrease rather than increase the quality of their health care (41%-22%).

Independent voters sided more with Republican respondents than with Democrats on each of these perceptions, believing that health care reform would increase their health care costs by a margin of 66%-12%, insurance and Medicare premiums by 67%-10%, the federal deficit by 77%-5% and taxes by 80% to 2%. In addition, Independents believed passage of the Democrats' health care reform legislation would decrease the quality of their health care by a three-to-one margin, 48% to 16%.

Older voters also rejected the central argument that enacting health care reform legislation would help the economy, with 45% saying it would hurt the economy and only 27% saying it would help. Eighteen percent said it would make no difference.

And when it came to specific proposals to pay for health care reform, opposition to financing provisions under consideration by Congress swamped support:

• 81% opposed cutting Medicare by $400 billion versus 11% who supported it.

• 63% opposed taxing Cadillac health care plans versus 24% who supported it.

• 63% opposed increasing Medicare payroll taxes versus 27% who supported it.

• 60% opposed cutting or eliminating Medicare Advantage versus 14% who supported it.

The only proposed financing provision that enjoyed majority support was taxing elective cosmetic surgery (52% in favor, 40% opposed).

On the controversial issue of including abortion coverage in publicly subsidized insurance, voters 55-and-older overwhelmingly side with the argument "abortions should not be allowed in a government-run health insurance plan, and abortions should not be covered by an insurance plan that receives federal subsidies, because it means taxpayers who object to abortion are forced to subsidize abortion" (58%) over those who agree with the argument "abortion should be allowed in a government-run health insurance plan, and abortion should be covered in federally-subsidized plans if patients pay for it themselves, because if abortion is legal it should be covered under government health plans" (34%).

The findings in this survey are significant because older voters are much more likely to vote in the mid-term elections than younger voters.

Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid seem to have concluded that failing to pass health care reform legislation will hurt them more at the polls than passing it-that they're less "damned if they do" than "damned if they don't." Today's Resurgent Republic poll is strong evidence that they're wrong.

Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and counselor to President Bush, and Whit Ayres, professional pollster, are the original board members of Resurgent Republic.

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