Clipboard: Review of voter polls shows big role for health care in the presidential race

It seemed for months—years, even—that the Affordable Care Act would dominate much of the the 2012 presidential election. Then the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of most of the law and Mitt Romney became the Republican nominee. The sweeping national reform seemed to take a back burner, sometimes—as in the first on-stage showdown—coming to the fore as a debate over Medicare cuts and Medicaid block grants.

But the issue weighs heavily on voters’ minds, according to an article by Robert Blendon and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine. A review of voter polls found health care may play a bigger role in their decision in the voting booth than at any time since 1992.

Four of five people consider health a very important issue in their vote for president, the authors found in an average of several polls. But few named it as their biggest priority. That, of course, was the economy and jobs for most voters.

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In one poll of likely voters, 20 percent said health care and Medicare were their top concern in this election. Among those, 59 percent identified themselves as Democrats.

The authors write:

In summary, health care is playing a greater role in this presidential election than in many other recent ones. However, the economy dominates most voters’ thinking in terms of their priorities for choosing a candidate. But in a close election, the two candidates’ stands on health care issues could help swing the balance among some voters. Debates about the future role of government in health care are likely to figure prominently in the remainder of this presidential campaign. At this point in the election cycle, with the exception of voters focused on abortion, those who select health care as their top voting issue are much more likely to support the policy positions of Obama than those of Romney.