Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: Election 2008 — September 2008

The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: Election 2008 finds that health care has crept up in importance as an election issue in recent months among a key voting group: political independents, who ranked it as highly as Democrats did in this poll.  Roughly one in four (26%) independents rank health care as one of the top issues they would “most like to hear the presidential candidates talk about.” Health care’s importance has risen among independents by eight percentage points since April.  At the same time, health care has dropped even further down Republicans’ priority list (now mentioned by 11%, a new low) and stayed roughly stable among Democrats (25%).

Amidst the collapse of some of the country’s financial institutions and the subsequent government interventions, the economy overwhelmingly ranks as one of the top issues voters want to hear about from the candidates, claiming a majority among independents (54%) as well as among Republicans (55%) and Democrats (59%). Iraq remains an important election issue for one in four voters overall (25%) and health care has returned to third place (21%) as gas prices have declined slightly as an issue (down from 25% in June to 19%). It should be noted that the poll reflects responses from September 8 through 13, before the worst of the financial crisis became public.

Recent economic events are having a real impact on Americans’ pocketbooks: More than six in ten say they are experiencing at least one “serious problem” from a list of specific economic challenges, up slightly from last month (63%, up from 58%).  The number of Americans reporting a serious problem “paying for health care and health insurance” rose six percentage points from just one month ago and now stands at 30 percent.

The September poll, the tenth in a series designed and analyzed by the Foundation’s public opinion research team, also examines the voters’ specific health care issue interests and perceptions of the major presidential candidates’ positions on health care and reform.


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