Category Archives: Health Care


Today we release our latest polling on the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare. We find that a majority of New Jerseyans “supports” the ACA, while 40 percent “oppose” it. Opponents are generally more strongly opposed than supporters are strong in support. More importantly, we drill down to ask about the reason for opposition in terms of government involvement in health care.   Not surprisingly, most (71 percent) opponents say they are against Obamacare because it gets the government too involved in health care.  But 24 percent of opponents say they don’t like it because it does NOT go far enough in ensuring access to health care for all. This is not trivial. We tend to think all of those opposed are upset about government overreach. Instead, a significant portion has a very different view – the law did not do enough. Taken as a whole, this suggests only about one in three New Jersayans actually oppose Obamacare as a government overreach.

One other interesting note. The Monmouth Polling Institute released their polling on Obamacare yesterday and they found only a minority of New Jerseyans had a “favorable” view of Obamacare.  How can that square with our finding that 55 percent support the law? This is a classic case of where question wording can make a difference in how we should interpret results. The Monmouth question is:

Given what you know about the health reform law, do you have a generally favorable or generally unfavorable opinion of it? [PROBE: Is that a very or somewhat (favorable/unfavorable) opinion?]

Our question is:

Now let’s talk about health care. From what you have seen or heard about the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, do you strongly support it, somewhat support it, somewhat oppose it, or strongly oppose it?

As we have routinely seen with questions about Gov. Christie’s job performance and favorability, asking about a “favorable or unfavorable” opinion is different from asking about “support”, just as it is different than asking about the governor’s job performance. People bring different ideas into their heads depending on how a question is asked. It is very possible that some of the people who told us they “support” the ACA would also say they have a “somewhat unfavorable” opinion of it. That is, one can think it does not do everything you would like, and feel it could have been better, and still “support” it over some unspecified alternative.

So we should not see our two polls as at odds, but instead should see them a complementary, asking about the same issues, but from different perspectives. That’s how we really get a read on public opinion.

Click here for a PDF of the full text, questions, and tables for this release.


 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – More New Jerseyans now support the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, than are opposed, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. With the first open enrollment period now ended, 26 percent strongly support the ACA, while another 29 percent somewhat support it. Detractors are more intense in their opposition: 28 percent strongly oppose the law while 12 percent are somewhat opposed.

Opposition is not monolithic; 24 percent of opponents believe the law “does not go far enough” in ensuring health care access for all while 71 percent oppose the ACA because they think it “goes too far” in involving government in health care decisions.

“Polls examining support for Obamacare tend not to ask why opponents feel that way,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “When we do, we find that a substantial share of opponents want more, not less, from a government health care program. Only about 30 percent of all New Jersey residents actually object to the law because it goes too far, suggesting a strong base for the goals of Obamacare, even if for some the current law fails to reach those goals.”

Most New Jerseyans, including half of strong Obamacare opponents, think the March 31 open enrollment deadline should have been extended to allow for more enrollments: 74 percent would have liked more time, while 22 percent say an extension was not needed.

Perhaps reflecting a combination of political opposition and a lack of awareness of its details, most respondents said they have personally seen little to no effect from the new health care law.

At the same time, the number who reported having no health insurance has declined from 14 percent to 6 percent since a January Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Still, only 3 percent of respondents said they have bought their health insurance from the online Health Care Exchange.

Results are from a statewide poll of 816 New Jersey adults with a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points, contacted by live callers on landlines and cell phones from March 31 to April 6.

Partisanship, race divide support for Affordable Care Act

Mirroring the longstanding, bitter partisan battle in Congress over the ACA, the law generates polar opposite views from Democrats and Republicans. Eighty-four percent of Democrats back Obamacare at some level, with half saying they strongly support it. Fourteen percent of Democrats oppose the law, split between somewhat and strongly opposed. Republicans, on the other hand, are almost wholly in the opposite camp. Reflecting GOP opposition to Obamacare in Congress, 79 percent of Republicans are against the law, with 63 percent strongly opposed.

About half of independents support Obamacare, but that support is lukewarm; only 16 percent are strong supporters, while 33 percent are somewhat supportive. Opponents are more intense in their distaste: 30 percent strongly oppose the law and 14 percent somewhat oppose it.

Support for Obamacare also shows a significant racial divide. Half of whites they oppose the act, with 35 percent strongly opposed. Only 19 percent strongly support the law, while 27 percent somewhat support it. In contrast, nearly all black New Jerseyans offer some support: 57 percent are strong supporters and 35 percent are somewhat supportive.

Education also makes a difference in ACA support. Respondents with graduate level work are 16 to 18 points more likely to support the law than those with a high school education or some college. They are also nine points more likely than those with a college degree to support the ACA.

Senior citizens oppose the law, 50 percent to 44 percent who support it. While those 18-34 years old are more supportive of President Obama in general, they are less passionate proponents of the law: just 19 percent give it strong support, compared to 28 percent of seniors. But 40 percent of these millennials somewhat support Obamacare, bringing their overall level of support to 59 percent.

Attitudes towards President Obama also play a large role in ACA acceptance. Eighty-three percent of the president’s supporters favor the law, but the opposite is true is among Obama’s detractors, 65 percent of whom strongly oppose Obamacare. Those favorable toward Obama are more evenly split between somewhat and strongly supporting the law.

But whether for or against the ACA, most say the enrollment deadline should have been extended past March 31: 84 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of independents, and 57 percent of Republicans feel an extension was called for. Even more than half of the law’s strongest opponents agree that individuals should have been given more time to apply.

Obamacare detractors split on why they are opposed        

While the media focuses on Obamacare opponents who see the law as an example of government overreach, in New Jersey 24 percent of opponents actually want more from a health care program, including 21 percent of independents and 14 percent of Republicans.

While there is no gender gap in general support of the ACA, women opponents are more likely than men (28 percent to 21 percent) to think the law does not do enough to ensure healthcare access for all, while men (77 percent to 66 percent) are more likely to say the law goes too far. Also, better educated respondents are more likely to support Obamacare in general, but less educated opponents think the law does not do enough.

“The widespread belief that the public does not want health care reform fails to account for the many opponents who are actually unhappy because Obamacare doesn’t go far enough,” noted Redlawsk. “I suspect many supporters would also like to see more, but are willing to take what is available as a first step. Together, these two groups – opponents who want more and supporters of the current law – make up a broad-based majority of New Jersey residents.”

New Jerseyans see little effect so far

Supporters and opponents alike say they have so far personally experienced few, if any, effects from the new health care law. Only 9 percent of New Jerseyans say the Affordable Care Act has mostly helped them so far and 17 percent say the law has hurt them. Most, 71 percent, say the law has not made much of a difference in their lives.

This finding cuts across partisan lines, Redlawsk said; 76 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents say they have experienced little difference. Sixty percent of Republicans say the same, but a sizeable portion, 31 percent, also says the law has hurt them thus far.

While virtually no white residents say Obamacare has thus far made a positive difference in their lives, black residents are five times more likely to report positive effects. Even so, only a quarter of blacks have been positively affected, while the majority of both blacks and whites say they have seen little change. While the consensus is that the ACA has had little effect, lower income and urban residents are more likely to say the law has helped. While all age groups mostly say the ACA has made no difference, senior citizens are most likely to feel this way, at 80 percent.

The president’s backers, unsurprisingly, are more likely to say the ACA has helped (15 percent), while his detractors are more likely to say it has been a detriment (38 percent).

“Obamacare remains a polarizing law, even as most people say they’ve seen few effects from it so far,” said Redlawsk. “Opposition is not tied to personal experience. Rather, it is clearly an ideological litmus test for many. Even though the law carries both benefits and costs, most New Jerseyans so far seem to think Obamacare has relatively little to do with them personally, even as they stake out a position on either side.”

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Results of a Joint Poll with Siena and Roanoke Released Today

Over the last week we carried out our latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll of New Jersey with an interesting twist. In conjunction with two other statewide academic polling centers we fielded a large set of the same questions to respondents in our respective states. Today we release the results in a lengthy report that summarizes the interesting differences and similarities between the three states of New York (Siena Research Institute), Virginia (Roanoke Institute for Policy and Opinion Research) and Rutgers-Eagleton. The report speaks pretty much for itself, but if you want to see the full set of questions and crosstabs for all three institutions, you can find them here.

For a PDF of this release with the New Jersey tables and crosstabs, click here.

Full text of the release follows.

Roanoke/Rutgers-Eagleton/Siena College Study:  Simultaneous Polls – Virginia, New Jersey, New York
Majority in 3 States Favorable on Hillary Clinton; Give Former Sec of State 2016 Lead over Christie, Paul & Ryan

Voters in NJ, NY & Virginia in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage, National Gun Registry, Keystone Pipeline, Minimum Wage Hike, Med Marijuana; States Mixed on Obamacare, Unemployment Extension

Cuomo Stronger in NY than Christie in Jersey or McAuliffe in Virginia

NY & NJ Voters see Global Climate Change; Virginians Mixed

Loudonville, NY; New Brunswick, NJ; Roanoke, VA. – A majority of voters in New York (64 percent), New Jersey (59 percent) and Virginia (56 percent) have a favorable view of Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and name her most often in each state as the one eligible person that they would most like to see as the next President according to simultaneous identical polls conducted by Roanoke College in Virginia, Rutgers-Eagleton in New Jersey and Siena College in New York.  In early 2016 Presidential horseraces in each state, Clinton tops New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Senator Rand Paul and Congressman Paul Ryan by over 35 points in New York, 8 (Christie) to 14 (Paul) points in Virginia and even leads Christie by 10 in New Jersey while up there by 25 to 29 over Ryan and Paul.

“It’s early, very early, but in these three states worth 56 of 270 electoral votes needed to win, Hillary Clinton is well-liked, the top choice by margins of 4 or 5 to one in New York and Virginia and named more than twice as often in Governor Christie’s home state.  Head to head, she is untouchable in New York, has majorities in New Jersey and a lead in the potential battleground state of Virginia over not only two lesser known Republican hopefuls, Paul and Ryan, but over Christie who can no longer muster 50 percent favorable in any of the three states,” according to Don Levy, Director of the Siena College Research Institute.

Asked to vote in favor of or opposed to 12 national initiatives, a majority of voters in all three states support seven and oppose one.  Overwhelming majorities are in favor of raising the national minimum wage to $10.10 per hour; legalizing the use of marijuana in all 50 states for medical purposes; approving a path to citizenship for people who are in the U.S. illegally, but are working, have no criminal record and pay taxes; approving the Keystone Pipeline to bring oil from Canada to the U.S.; using federal funds to make free Pre-Kindergarten education available to all children; and establishing a national gun registry.

Legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states is strongly supported in New Jersey and New York while Virginians are in favor by 53 to 40 percent.  Large majorities, greatest in Virginia, oppose allowing the National Security Agency (NSA) to tap domestic phone lines in the interest of national security.


“We tend to spend more time focusing on how voters differ across states, but here we find that despite differences in geography, racial and religious makeup, and partisanship, there is more agreement than not in these three states on seven current issues. Apparently voters share more opinions than the media leads us to believe with their focus on a hyper partisan world,” according to David Redlawsk, Director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

“Given a huge disparity in gun ownership rates – half in Virginia compared to one in seven in the two northern states – the much smaller differences on support for a national gun registry are surprising.  Virginians are less supportive of stricter gun laws, but those differences are relatively small. New York and New Jersey have much tougher restrictions on guns and gun owners; perhaps those differences are a factor in shaping opinion,” according to Harry Wilson, Director of Roanoke’s Institute for Policy and Opinion Research.

On four current issues – the Affordable Care Act, abortion, standardized testing and an extension for unemployment benefits – the voters of New Jersey, New York and Virginia do not speak with the same decisiveness nor the same mind.  Given the opportunity to vote in these polls on repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, a majority of Virginians are in favor, a small majority of New Jerseyans agree, but a similarly small majority of New Yorkers oppose repeal.  On two other current hot button issues, both New York and New Jersey support both reinstituting unemployment benefits beyond the initial 26 weeks of coverage and to a lesser degree, using nationally standardized tests to assess the quality of public schools, while in Virginia, both issues find voters split.

The one issue on which voters of each state are closely divided is making abortion illegal 20 weeks after conception, a proposal currently being advanced by some in Congress.  Voters in all three states lean towards opposing this measure, but only in Virginia does opposition reach beyond the margin of error and in no instant does opposition reach 50 percent.

“While voters in these three states agree on and endorse initiatives covering a wide range of issues – same-sex marriage, medical marijuana, the Keystone Pipeline and the minimum wage – voters both within these three states and across borders cannot come to any consensus on some of the key issues that are drawing the political battle lines today including abortion, Obamacare and unemployment benefits.  In fact, asked whether the greatest problem we face today is too much government or income inequality, New Yorkers say ‘it’s inequality,’ Virginians say ‘too much government’ and New Jersey is split,” Levy notes.

“Another line in the sand is climate change.  New Jersey and New York emphatically say that they think that the major storms that have hit the East Coast over the last two years are the result of global climate change while Virginians are not convinced,” Wilson adds.

Rating the Governors, States and Country

Of the three Governors, Andrew Cuomo in New York, Chris Christie in New Jersey and Terry McAuliffe in Virginia, Cuomo has the strongest favorability ranking in his own state at 59 to 34 percent followed by McAuliffe’s 47 to 33 percent and Christie’s 48 to 40 percent.  Away from their home state, Christie is best known but gets breakeven favorable/unfavorable scores in both New York and Virginia.  McAuliffe, the Governor with the shortest tenure, is little known outside of Virginia while Cuomo is seen favorably in New Jersey, 47 to 19 percent but is neither well known nor popular in Virginia at 27 to 33 percent.

Another point of agreement across these three states is that voters say that the country is headed in the wrong direction rather than being on the right track by nearly identical scores – NJ 56/32, NY 54/36, Virginia 59/32.  And when asked to assess the direction of their own state, voters are more positive about their home than the nation but no state makes it to 50 percent saying ‘right track.’  While Virginians are guardedly optimistic at 47 percent right track to 40 percent wrong direction, New Yorkers and New Jerseyans lean negatively.


“Still, given a chance to vote with their feet when asked across all three states to choose where they would most like to live, a large majority – ninety percent in Virginia, two-thirds in New York and almost six in ten in New Jersey, say, despite any warts, home is sweet home.  Among those with a wandering eye, Virginia calls most loudly as a quarter of both New Yorkers and New Jerseyans are ready to head south,” Redlawsk added.

“Whether we describe our politics as hyper-partisan, divided or gridlocked, this three-state study shows that large majorities of voters from New Jersey, New York and Virginia agree on many issues.  Still, given their sobering agreement on the country currently moving in the wrong direction, they appear more frustrated than optimistic.  At the same time, on some issues including Obamacare, the role of government and abortion, deep divides are evident.  The 2016 Presidential election is a political eternity away.  While some of the issues in this study may be decided by then, it is more likely that Hillary Clinton and the other candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, will need to address both the areas of agreement as well as those on which Americans disagree when the campaign heats up.”


Filed under Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, Education, Gay Marriage, Gun Control, Health Care, Hillary Clinton, Immigration, Obama NJ Rating, President Obama

A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff … The Initial Rollout of the Affordable Care Act in New Jersey

Mixed Views on Affordable Care Act; Numbers on Sign Up

By Max Mescall, Ian McGeown, and Liz Kantor

Max Mescall is a research intern at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and a junior at Rutgers University. Ian McGeown is an Aresty Undergraduate Research Assistant with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and is a sophomore at Rutgers University. Liz Kantor is an Aresty Undergraduate Research Assistant with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and a School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program sophomore at Rutgers University. 

 It would be hard to find someone living in the United States that has not heard the term “Obamacare” thrown around in the media in the past few years. After much debate and discussion, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is finally starting to take effect as Americans can now make decisions about what kind of healthcare coverage to select, either through or their own state-based marketplace where applicable.

Our latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll shows that New Jerseyans have somewhat mixed views on the Affordable Care Act.  A majority at least somewhat supports the ACA, pretty evenly split between 26 percent somewhat supporting and 28 percent strongly supporting the law.  But those who do not like the ACA are more likely to express strong than middling opposition: 28 percent strongly oppose, while 12 percent are somewhat opposed.

Unsurprisingly there is a clear partisan divide: 44 percent of Democrats give strong support, compared to just 20 percent of independents and 5 percent of Republicans. While an overwhelming majority of Democrats support the law at some level, just under half of independents feel the same while 8 in 10 Republicans are at least somewhat opposed.

Since most NJ residents have health insurance already either through their work (47 percent) or through Medicare (13 percent) or Medicaid (3 percent), as of mid-January relatively few had actually used to try to purchase a new health insurance policy. Just 14 percent reported attempts to use the site, not surprising since the vast majority of New Jerseyans already had insurance through other sources.

Among those who attempted to use the site, about two-thirds say they actually obtained insurance from it. Among this small number of respondents (less than 10 percent of the full sample), 25 percent find that it was less expensive than their prior insurance, just slightly fewer (22 percent) say it was more expensive, and around the same number (23 percent) say it was about the same cost. Nine percent are not sure. Another 21 percent who successfully signed up could not compare to previous insurance rates because they did not have insurance before purchasing through the exchange.

Overall, a large majority says the ACA has had little effect on them and their families so far.  Just over two-thirds (67 percent) of New Jerseyans say the ACA has had little effect, while 11 percent say it has helped their families, and 17 percent say it has done more harm than good.  But this sentiment is again divided across partisan lines: Republicans are approximately five times more likely than Democrats to say the law has hurt them (34 percent versus 7 percent), though the majority within each party sees little effect yet.

In the end, of course, most New Jerseyans, as with most people nationwide, are already covered by insurance before Obamacare, so for most, the insurance exchanges don’t really make any difference. At the same time, it seems clear that New Jerseyans are not focused on benefits of the program beyond the exchanges – including keeping children on parent’s policies to age 26, elimination of lifetime caps, and removal of pre-existing limitations. That seems to be the only way to explain why few New Jersey respondents say they have seen any benefits in the new law.

In general, Obama’s job grade is still high in the “blue” state of New Jersey, with 60 percent feeling favorably toward the president – though this positivity is driven mostly by the 88 percent of Democrats who feel this way.  About half of independents and only 14 percent of Republicans feel the same.  Predictably, Obama’s favorability has a strong relationship to opinions on the Affordable Care Act.  Favorable impressions steadily increase and negative impressions correspondingly decrease with each successive level of support for the health care law.  In turn, those more favorable toward Obama are more likely to support the law, and those who are more unfavorable are more likely to oppose it.  Obama’s job grade follows similar patterns.

Results are from a statewide poll of 826 New Jersey adults with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Jan 14 – 19.

Jan 2014 Health Care Questions and Tables

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In partnership with WNYC, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll looks at health care issues

Today we release interesting results of a series of questions we asked about health care reform issues in our latest poll. We worked with The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC radio to develop questions on support for the Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), a major proposed change to Medicare, the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, and whether people trust government or insurance companies on health insurance matters.

Full text of the release follows. For a PDF of the text along with questions and tables, click here.

An Increasing Number of New Jerseyans Appear to Support Obamacare, WNYC/Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Finds
But voters also trust private insurance companies more than government

A clear majority of New Jersey voters support the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to a new WNYC/Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Nearly 6-in-10 registered voters in the Garden State say the Supreme Court was right to uphold the law, while 37 percent wanted it struck down. This represents a significant increase in support, compared to the 47 percent who supported the law in a March, 2010 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Other key findings of the poll include:

Given a choice between changing Medicare to a system providing fixed payments to seniors who would then buy their own insurance or maintaining the current system, more than two-thirds would stick with Medicare as it is. Only one-quarter supports changing the system to allow purchasing insurance on the market.

The ACA’s provision expanding Medicaid is popular in New Jersey, even though the state has not yet decided whether to participate in the expansion. Just over one-third opposes expanding Medicaid eligibility, while 57 percent support extending its coverage to more low income residents.

At the same time, voters are dubious about government decisions about health insurance: only 35 percent trust government on matters related to health insurance, while 44 percent trust private insurance companies more.

“New Jerseyans are for the most part supportive of the affordable health care act,” said Redlawsk. “While not all that supportive of government making health insurance decisions, they are still quite happy with the prospects of keeping children on parents’ policies and not being denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.”

“We learn again how incredibly conflicted people are when it comes to both health insurance and the role of government,” said Brian Lehrer. “Folks responding to this poll trust private insurance more than government in the abstract, but prefer Medicare to an insurance marketplace in their real lives. It’s also interesting that most New Jerseyans seem to want Governor Christie to opt into the Medicaid expansion, despite the refusal of some other Republican governors to do so.”

Results are from a poll of 790 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Sep 27-30. The sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. Questions on health care issues were developed in consultation with The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC radio, and were sponsored by WNYC.

Overall support for Affordable Care Act hides partisan differences

While 57 percent of New Jersey voters support the ACA court decision, support is driven by the nearly 80 percent of Democrats who are pleased that the law was upheld. Reflecting their party’s consistent position on “Obamacare,” only 23 percent of Republicans support the Court’s decision, while 74 percent wanted the law struck down. Independents are more supportive than not, at 56 percent to 35 percent.

Support for the law is clearly tied to support for President Barack Obama. Among those who say they will vote for Obama, 82 percent are happy with the decision. But 74 percent of Romney voters wish the ACA had been struck down. Reflecting this, there are also strong racial divisions, with only 52 percent of white voters in favor of the ACA, compared to 77 percent of black voters.

Parents of children under 18 are slightly more supportive of the Supreme Court decision on the health care act than are other voters, at 60 percent. Young people – many of whom may be direct beneficiaries of the law – are for the most part supportive: 61 percent are pleased the law was upheld. But senior citizens are much less so, with only 46 percent happy with the decision, with an equal number wishing the law had been overturned.

Voters who trust government more on health care insurance are overwhelmingly supportive of the Court’s decision, at 80 percent, with only 15 percent preferring the Court had ruled the other way. But those who trust private insurance companies more see things differently: 60 percent wanted the law struck down, while only 34 percent wanted it upheld.

“To a great extent, the results suggest that partisan voters stick with their parties on this one,” noted Redlawsk. “Democrats trust government, and also want the law, while Republicans do not. At the same time, those with a personal interest in getting coverage – parents of children, and the young voters themselves – are more supportive, while those who see less positive outcomes are much less so. Seniors generally don’t see much direct benefit, and may be worried about Medicare cuts, leading to less support for the law.”

Little stomach for major Medicare change

A large majority of New Jersey voters does not want Medicare to change from the basic government insurance program that it is today. One-quarter support changing to a type of voucher system, where seniors would buy their own insurance, but 69 percent of New Jerseyans reject that idea. Even a majority of voters who say they trust private insurance companies more on health insurance want to retain the current Medicare system, while 85 percent of those trusting government support the current system against a voucher proposal.

Predictable partisan differences arise, but even so, 54 percent of Republicans reject payments to seniors to buy their own coverage. Democrats, not surprisingly, are broadly in favor of the current system: 82 percent want to leave it alone while 64 percent of independents agree. Yet, 52 percent of Romney supporters would leave the system alone, and 81 percent of Obama voters are in the same camp.

Age matters, though not as much as might be expected. Voters over 65, most of whom are on Medicare, are widely in favor of the current system, but even 58 percent of voters under 30 reject a voucher-style alternative.

“Medicare remains a potential third rail in American politics,” said Redlawsk. “And our results in New Jersey reflect that. While Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has talked of a plan allowing seniors to buy their own insurance with a government-provided stipend, even voters in his own party are not so sure they like the idea. Whether they like the federal government or not, most voters like one of its signature programs just the way it is.”

Despite Medicare support, voters dubious about government and health insurance decisions

More New Jersey voters trust private insurance companies than the government when it comes to matters related to health insurance, reflecting a somewhat contradictory position compared to widespread support for the premier government insurance program, Medicare. Divisions over the role of government mostly reflect standard partisan divisions in American politics. Independents (44 percent) and especially Republicans (76 percent) are much more trusting of private insurance companies than are Democrats (25 percent). But significant shares of voters say they do not trust either – about 1 in 7 members of both parties — and 20 percent of independents take this position.

These divisions carry through in predictable ways: while 51 percent of white voters favor private insurance companies, 57 percent of black voters say they trust government more on matters related to health insurance. Voters who support the Supreme Court decision on the ACA are also more likely to trust government, 49 percent versus 26 percent trusting private companies. And voters who oppose the decision are trusting of private companies by a 71 to 14 percent margin.

“People can often hold contradictory opinions,” said Redlawsk. “We all remember the ‘keep your government hands off my Medicare’ comments supposedly made in the early days of the debate over health care. The fact is, while voters are dubious about government decision-making, they are also quite supportive of programs from which they see or expect a direct benefit.”

Redlawsk also pointed out that much of the contradiction comes from Republican voters, who are strongly anti-government, but more supportive than not of Medicare.

Proposed Medicaid Expansion has support

Among the provisions of the health care law is the expansion of Medicaid, the health insurance program for low income Americans. A federal program, Medicaid is administered by the states, and states have some leeway in establishing eligibility. The ACA would expand eligibility to cover many more Americans with the federal government paying at least 90 percent of the cost. In its ruling the Supreme Court allowed states to opt out of the expansion without penalty. New Jersey has not yet announced its decision.

Voters in New Jersey, however, express clear support for Medicaid expansion in the state, with 57 percent in favor and 35 percent opposed. When voters opposed to expansion are told it has little cost to the state, 65 percent of them continue to oppose it, while 23 percent become supporters.

Support for Medicaid expansion decreases as income increases: 65 percent of voters with household incomes under $50,000 are in favor, while only 48 percent of those making $150,000 or more agree. Sharp partisan differences emerge, driven in part by dramatic differences between black and white voters, and by age. Half of whites support expansion, while 86 percent of black voters do. Voters under 30 are also strong supporters, at 73 percent, while only 49 percent of those over 65 agree. As a result, 79 percent of Democrats are in favor of expanding Medicaid, while only 15 percent are opposed. But among Republicans, only 30 percent support expansion, while 60 percent are against it. Independents are much more split: 51 percent support and 41 percent oppose Medicaid expansion.

Three-quarters of those who support the decision to uphold the ACA also want to see Medicaid expanded, while 61 percent of voters who wanted the law struck down also oppose expanding Medicaid.

“Support for Medicaid expansion is driven by the same partisan and self-interest dynamic we see in the other health care questions,” said Redlawsk. “Those who might benefit – lower income voters in particular – are much more supportive than those who would not. Likewise, senior citizens, who already have Medicare accessibility, are also less interested in expanding Medicaid. And of course Republicans oppose it and Democrats support it.”

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