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Is There a Health Care Vote? More for Democrats and Women than Other Groups

About One Third of Americans Perceive Wide-Scale Effort to Limit Women’s Reproductive Health Choices and Services; Most Who Do Say the Effort is a ‘Bad Thing’

Health care is one of many issues that will be important for voters in the presidential election, particularly for Democrats and women, finds the March Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.

More than a third (36%) of voters consider health care “extremely important” to their vote in this year’s presidential election, ranking it below the economy and jobs and terrorism (41% each), but above government spending (33%), income inequality (23%), and immigration (22%).

Democrats rate health care at the top of their list of issues that will matter to their vote, along with the economy and jobs. Despite the attention Republican presidential candidates have given to Obamacare on the campaign trail, Republicans rate the economy and jobs, terrorism, and government spending above health care, with immigration, a hot issue on the campaign trail, coming in fifth.

Female voters (41%) are more likely than male voters (31%) to consider health care “extremely important” to their vote.  Within all groups, more voters say health care is extremely important than say the same about immigration or income inequality.

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When those who consider health care to be extremely important to their vote are asked why, three in 10 voters (30%) mention the Affordable Care Act, with three times as many saying they oppose it (21%) as favor it (7%). A similar share (29%) mention health care costs, and about a quarter (24%) mention increasing access to insurance.

With the Supreme Court currently weighing cases involving a Texas abortion law and employers’ religious objections to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception requirements, the poll finds a third (34%) of the public say “there is a wide-scale effort to limit women’s reproductive health choices and services,” while nearly half (46%) say “some groups would like to limit these choices and services, but it is not a wide-scale effort.”

Significantly more women than men (40% vs. 28%) and more Democrats than independents or Republicans (51% vs. 31% and 21%) say they believe there is a wide-scale effort to limit women’s reproductive health choices and services.

Those who perceive a wide-scale effort are more likely to describe the effort as a “bad thing” (25% of the public overall) than a “good thing” (7% of the public overall). Female Republican voters are evenly divided as to whether the effort is good or bad, while female Democratic and independent voters are more likely to view the effort as bad.

Most Democratic voters (62%) name Hillary Clinton as the presidential candidate they trust most to represent their views on women’s reproductive health choices and services, while almost a quarter (23%) name Bernie Sanders.  Republican voters are more divided: A quarter (26%) name Donald Trump, a fifth (21%) name Ted Cruz, and smaller shares name Marco Rubio (10%), John Kasich (7%). Some Republicans also name Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton (9%) and Bernie Sanders (5%).

Among independent voters, the largest shares trust the Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton (22%) and Bernie Sanders (20%), on reproductive health issues. Fewer cite Donald Trump (8%), Ted Cruz (7%), John Kasich (4%) or Marco Rubio (3%).

Americans’ overall view of the health care law is tilting negatively in March, with 41 percent favorable and 47 percent unfavorable. While about half the public (52%) says they have not been directly impacted by the health care law, more say they have been hurt than say they have been helped (28% vs. 18%, respectively). Democrats are more likely to report being helped, while Republican are more likely to report being hurt.

With the ACA’s third open enrollment period over, the survey also assesses why those who remain uninsured did not obtain coverage, and cost remains the main barrier.  Among those without health insurance, nearly half (48%) say they tried to get coverage but that it was too expensive. Others say they tried to get coverage but were unable (14%), they did not know about the requirement to obtain coverage (8%) or did not think the requirement applies to them (6%).  In addition, 5 percent say they would rather pay a fine than pay for coverage.

Designed and analyzed by public opinion researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation, the poll was conducted from March 7 to 14, 2016 among a nationally representative random digit dial telephone sample of 1,201. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by landline (421) and cell phone (780). The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the full sample. For results based on subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be higher.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.