Health Care and the 2012 Election

by John Sides on March 8, 2012 · 5 comments

in Campaigns and elections,Health Care


Davis X. Machina March 8, 2012 at 7:33 pm

” We estimate that support for health care reform cost Democratic incumbents about 6 percent of the vote, relative to Democratic incumbents who opposed health care reform. ”

It’s gospel in real, true progressive circles that if the Democrats had just held fast for Medicare for All, or at least the public option, they would have swept to victory first with the legislation itself, and then to Congressional majorities in its halo.

How does this square with that?

Steve Smith March 8, 2012 at 7:45 pm

A couple of things to consider–

1. By the time the Senate vote occurred on Christmas Eve 2009, it appears that a narrow majority of American opposed the plan, but a quarter or more of the opponents were unhappy that the plan was too conservative.
2. Over the course of 2010, the deficit gained more and more salience. The Democrats, who had an opportunity to pursue more stimulus and long-term deficit reduction, did nothing. The Republicans went into all-stop obstructionist mode in the Senate.
3. I bet that evolving mass attitudes about health care reform were conflated with attitudes about the economy and budget that intensified during 2010. Attributing 6 percent of the variance in vote to the independent effect of “support for health care reform” is a very loose and probably wrong inference.

John Sides March 8, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Steve: Re: point #3. We show that Democratic supporters appeared to lose 6 additional points,relative to a matched set of Democratic opponents — focusing on competitive districts and matching on presidential vote in the district, party unity, and DW-NOMINATE. This same effect did not emerge for a vote for the stimulus, which seems like the roll call most closely associated with the economy and the deficit. It doesn’t seem to me like we should be interpreting punishment for supporting the ACA as punishment for a bad economy or an increasing deficit — except insofar as opposition to the ACA stemmed from concerns about the additional spending it might entail.

But perhaps I’m not following your argument.

glasnost March 8, 2012 at 9:30 pm

A flaw in this argument is that this kind of test doesn’t have anything to do with health care, per se. Health care just happens to be the major domestic initative that the Democrats spent one full year trying to pass. In a bad economy, the opposition will focus broadly on some major initiative to attack, that attack will pick up speed if the initiative stays in the news, and the initiative will become unpopular – the content of the initiative doesn’t actually matter.

In other words, if the Democrats had spent a year trying to pass cap and trade, or appointing judges, or the Card Check bill, or whatever, at a time when the economy was doing very badly, then that thing would have been identified with ‘liberalism’ and that would have been the thing that made incumbents perform badly.

The moral of the story isn’t health care, it’s that incumbents who vote against the major initiatives of their party when the opposition is mobilized will overperform. Maybe.

POed Lib March 8, 2012 at 11:38 pm

There are several points about health care:

1) The “majority opposes” view is wrong. As another stated, 35% in favor 40% oppose 18% want a more liberal and socialist plan

2) The blue dogs damaged health care immensely by running away. If they had worked together with the WH, they would not have been as damaged. I live in SD, and I wrote Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin and told her not to run if she wouldn’t support ACA.

3) There are a lot of people like me and my family. 3 kids – 22, 22, 25 – and I will carry them all on the insurance as long as possible. One of the kids possibly has pre-existing condition, and this also is fixed by the ACA.

4) Nothing sells itself. We need Obama and the Dems to sell ACA. Put some money into it. Find the compelling stories. It can and will be a winner, but not until the time and money and effort is put into selling it.

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