Mandate divisions: National survey shows public deeply divided on health insurance mandate

June 26, 2012

As the United States Supreme Court prepares to rule on the constitutionality of the 2010 health care law, a new National Agenda Opinion Poll by the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication reveals Americans are divided along party and ideology lines on a key provision of the law. Democrats and liberals overwhelmingly favor insurance mandates, whereas large majorities of Republicans and conservatives oppose them.

The national telephone survey of 906 Americans was conducted by the Center for Political Communication from May 20 to June 6. Professors David C. Wilson and Paul Brewer supervised the study. 

Wilson, the center’s coordinator for public opinion initiatives, said “the results suggest President Obama may actually have more political capital for his requirement than is widely reported.” 

The survey asked how much respondents favored or opposed a health insurance mandate using five different wordings. Half of respondents support a mandate when it is presented as a “requirement” or “a federal requirement.”  In contrast, 62 percent support “the federal requirement, signed by Obama.”

Two other versions asking about “a state requirement” (supported by 54 percent) or “the state requirement, signed by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney” (supported by 56 percent) receive lower support than the federal version mentioning Obama. 

A closer look at the results reveals wide gaps between Republicans and Democrats and between liberals and conservatives on all five versions of the question. For each version, support among Democrats and liberals is much greater than support among Republicans and conservatives. 

Democrats and liberals are more likely to support a state requirement than a federal requirement, but when Romney’s name is mentioned they support a state requirement less. Republicans and conservatives tend to support requirements by Obama and Romney more than the generic idea of a state or federal requirement without a political figure’s name attached.

“The findings among Republicans and conservatives suggest they do not draw the same distinction between state and federal mandates that Romney has drawn in his campaign,” Wilson said.

Researchers also found women are significantly more likely to support health insurance requirements than men, particularly at the federal level. Women show their strongest support for a federal health care requirement signed by Obama. They support state level requirements at the same level as men, whether Romney is mentioned or not.

Brewer, the center’s associate director for research, said, “No matter what the Supreme Court does, its ruling will go against the views of a sizable portion of the public. Public opinion about a mandate is deeply polarized along partisan and ideological lines.”

About the study

The National Agenda Opinion Project research was funded by the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication.

Results are based on telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 906 adults living in the continental United States. Telephone interviews were carried out using a dual sampling frame consisting of both landline (n=551) and cell phone (n=355, including 158 without a landline phone) extensions. 

The survey was managed by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI), and the data were collected through English only interviews by Princeton Data Source.

The data were collected from May 30 to June 5, 2012. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ± 3.9 percentage points. This estimate includes a calculated “design effect.” 

Readers should be aware that in addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls. 

Explore further: Final day of Supreme Court health law hearings

Related Stories

Final day of Supreme Court health law hearings

March 28, 2012
The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday on whether President Barack Obama's landmark health care law should be struck down if its key requirement that all Americans buy insurance is declared unconstitutional.

Poll: Health overhaul unpopular, but not as feared

March 8, 2012
(AP) -- Nearly two years after President Barack Obama signed landmark legislation to cover the uninsured, a new poll finds his health care overhaul is neither better liked nor better understood.

Support for Massachusetts landmark health reform law rises in 2011

June 6, 2011
A new poll by the Harvard School of Public Health and The Boston Globe finds 63% of Massachusetts residents support the health care reform legislation enacted in 2006, 21% oppose it while 6% are not sure and 9% have not heard ...

Recommended for you

High-fat diet in pregnancy can cause mental health problems in offspring

July 21, 2017
A high-fat diet not only creates health problems for expectant mothers, but new research in an animal model suggests it alters the development of the brain and endocrine system of their offspring and has a long-term impact ...

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.