Members undecided about how to vote on health care face intense pressure. The president is calling. Their leadership is badgering. Unions are threatening to back primary challengers and withhold support. Yet wavering Members be warned: Your constituents can’t twist your arm or make creative threats, but they will be voting in November. And if you vote for this health care legislation, chances are they’ll be voting against you.
That’s the message of a recent poll commissioned by the Independent Women’s Voice and conducted by the polling company, inc/ Woman Trend. The poll focused on voters in 35 Congressional districts in which Members are considered critical votes in the health care debate.
Forty percent of those surveyed want Congress to start from scratch on health care legislation, and another 20 percent think Congress should completely give up working on this issue this year. Far from gathering momentum, new information coming out about the legislation is making voters oppose it more strongly. When asked about how the information they’ve heard during the past 10 days affected their opinion, almost twice as many (55 percent) responded that they were less supportive than responded they have become more supportive (29 percent). Forty-two percent said they became much less supportive.
Instead of clamoring for health care reform, the public wants Congress to move on. Nearly 7 in 10 voters feel health care is distracting Congress from bigger priorities, like jobs. By a 2-to-1 margin, those surveyed agreed with the statement that “Even if it means health care reform is not passed this year, I would prefer that my Member of Congress vote against the current legislation.” More people said they would be “relieved” (45 percent) and “pleased” (21 percent) if health care reform didn’t pass this year, than said they would be “disappointed” (20percent), “frustrated” (19 percent), “angry” (14 percent), or “anxious” (10 percent).
People have good reasons for wanting the legislation to fail: more than half (53 percent) believe that they and their loved ones would be worse off under proposed changes. A majority also think the economy (54 percent) and U.S. health care system (55 percent) would suffer. Many see the health care legislation as an inappropriate federal power grab: 76 percent of respondents (and 80 percent of women) reject the statement that “It is the responsibility of the federal government to mandate that everyone have government-approved health insurance and to be penalized if they do not.”
A margin of nearly 2-to-1 agreed that “the current legislation gives government too big a role in the healthcare system” (63 percent agree [53 percent strongly] vs. 32% disagree). A majority were also very concerned about cost, with 64 percent agreeing (52 percent strongly) that “We as a nation can’t afford to pay for the current healthcare legislation right now.”
Not surprisingly, health care will be a top consideration when voters decide whom to support in November. More than 80 percent of those surveyed said that health care would be among the top three issues they’ll consider. And health care voters overwhelmingly oppose the current legislation.
Overall, 60 percent of voters surveyed said they would vote for the candidate who opposes the proposed health care legislation—that’s nearly twice (32 percent) those who would reward a health care supporter with their vote. Intensity was again on the side of those rejecting current legislation: 38 percent definitely will vote for a candidate opposed to the bill compared to 22 percent who will definitely vote for a health care legislation supporter.
Here’s one finding that’s particularly important for those Members wavering about how to vote this week: if you voted against health care reform in November, your constituents want you to vote against it again. If you voted for it in November, you can help yourself by switching your vote this time around. Sixty-one percent will be less supportive (compared to 29 percent who will be more supportive) of a Member who switched from voting against the bill to voting for the health care bill. In contrast, nearly half (49 percent) will be more supportive (compared to 40 percent who will be less supportive) of a Member who switches from voting for the bill to voting against it.
There are many reasons for Members to vote against this bill: from the policy to the process that has been used to advance it. Yet perhaps the most compelling reason is that Members are elected to represent their constituents—and it is overwhelmingly clear how their constituents would vote on health care if they truly had a voice in Congress.
Carrie Lukas is a fellow at Independent Women’s Voice.