Coloradans’ Perspectives on Health, Quality of Life, and Midterm Elections
The Kaiser Family Foundation and Colorado Health Foundation collaborated to conduct a survey of Coloradans examining a wide range of issues leading into the 2018 midterm elections, with special attention to health care and housing.
KFF has been tracking the role of health care throughout the 2018 election cycle, and Colorado, with an open gubernatorial election and many contested congressional races, provides unique insight into how the issue may play out next month. Similar to KFF national polling, the affordability of health care is among the top issues for Colorado voters. One-fifth of voters say health care is the top issue for the 2018 gubernatorial candidates to talk about during their campaigns, with the issue ranking higher for Democratic voters compared to independent voters or Republican voters. When voters are asked what explicitly about health care they would like the gubernatorial candidates to discuss, four in ten voters offer health care costs as the most important issue for the candidates to discuss. Health care costs outrank all other health care issues by a margin of at least four to one.
In Colorado and nationally, KFF polling has found that Democrats have an edge when it comes to voter enthusiasm in the upcoming elections. In Colorado, while Democrats have a slight edge in voter enthusiasm when it comes to the gubernatorial election, they have a stronger edge in the congressional elections. Nearly half of Democratic voters in Colorado say they are “more enthusiastic” about voting in the Congressional election this year than previous elections compared to smaller shares of Republican voters and independent voters. In addition, Coloradans’ midterm voting intentions appear to be largely driven by views on President Trump, with substantial shares of voters saying a candidate’s support for or opposition to President Trump will make the biggest difference in their 2018 vote choice.
Coloradans generally have a positive outlook for the future of both the state and their own local communities, with majorities saying things are going in the right direction. Perceptions of the economy may be driving these positive attitudes, with six in ten Colorado residents saying the economy and jobs is one area where things in Colorado are getting “better” (including three in ten who say it is getting “much better”) compared to 17 percent who say it is getting “worse.” In addition, slightly more than half of Coloradans (55 percent) say they are personally “better off” financially than they were a year ago, while one-fourth (26 percent) say they are “worse off” and one in five (18 percent) say their financial situation is about the same. Yet, there are some differences among key demographic groups with less than half of those earning less than $40,000 annually and Black residents reporting they are better off financially now than they were a year ago.
Despite this general optimism about the economy, health care and housing affordability weigh heavily on the minds of Coloradans. A majority of Coloradans say housing costs (80 percent), substance abuse (53 percent), and health care costs (55 percent) are areas where things are getting “worse” in Colorado. In addition, half of Coloradans report that over the past few years, it has become harder for people like them to afford their rent or mortgage or afford health care. Majorities of Coloradans say lowering the amount individuals pay for health care and making housing more affordable are at least “very important” for the state government to work on; about a quarter each choose health care costs and affordable housing as the “most important issue” for the Colorado state government.
Moving past the 2018 midterms, nearly three in ten Coloradans are worried that they might lose their home because they cannot afford their monthly housing costs, with a larger share of residents living in the Denver and Boulder areas saying it has become harder for them recently to afford their rent or mortgage than in other regions. In addition, about one-third of Denver and Boulder residents say they are either “very worried” or “somewhat worried” that they might lose their home because they cannot afford the monthly rent or mortgage.
Half of Coloradans say it has gotten harder for people like them to afford health care and this is consistent across key demographic groups, with similar shares of Coloradans, regardless of race/ethnicity, income, or region saying it has gotten harder to afford health care in recent years. Moreover, while about two-thirds of Coloradans say the current Colorado health care system is meeting their family’s needs, one in five say there was a time when they or another family member thought they might need mental health or substance abuse services but did not get them – mainly due to costs.