Health Care Is No. 2 Concern on Voters' Minds

Study analyzed 37 national opinion polls, found only economy more important

THURSDAY, Oct. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Health care is now the second most important issue in the presidential election, topped only by concerns about the economy, according to a study that analyzed 37 national opinion polls.

That's the highest health care has ranked as a presidential election issue since 1992, according to the researchers.

The study also found that voters who consider health care the top issue are more likely to side with President Barack Obama over challenger Mitt Romney on the Affordable Care Act and Medicare.

The analysis of survey data, conducted by 17 different organizations, revealed that 20 percent of respondents said health care/Medicare was the most important issue in their 2012 voting choice. The economy and jobs was first, at 51 percent.

Voters who said health care/Medicare was the most important issue were much more supportive of the Affordable Care Act than the general public. Forty-one percent of such voters said they were much less likely to vote for a candidate who would repeal all or part of the act, while 14 percent said they were much more likely to vote for such a candidate.

An average of current polls shows that about 44 percent of people support the act and 45 percent oppose it.

The study also found that 27 percent of people support and 66 percent oppose changing Medicare to provide seniors with a fixed amount of money they could use to buy either private health insurance or Medicare coverage.

Among voters who said health care/Medicare is the most important issue, 39 percent said they were much less likely to vote for a candidate who supported such a change in Medicare, and 11 percent said they were much more likely to vote for such a candidate.

The study was published online Oct. 10 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"The economy dominates most voters' thinking in terms of their priorities for choosing a candidate," study co-author Robert Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said in a school news release. "But in a close election, the two candidates' stands on health care issues could help swing the balance among some voters."

More information

The federal government has more about the Affordable Care Act.

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