Healthcare Ranks Higher as an Election Issue for Women, Kaiser Poll Finds

While healthcare is an important issue among Democrats, it ranks lower on the list of priorities for Republicans and independent voters. Data show that voters are overwhelmingly concerned about jobs and the economy.

Women and Democrats list healthcare higher among their priorities going into the final months of the 2016 presidential campaign, according to the most recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll released Wednesday.

Overall, the poll found healthcare ranks lower than the economy and terrorism as an issue of concern to registered voters. Healthcare ranks first among Democratic voters, with 43% saying it is an extremely important issue. But it ranks 4th behind the economy and jobs, terrorism, and government spending among both Republicans and independent voters. Raw data provided with the poll show that when asked an open-ended question about which issues matter most, Americans overwhelmingly listed jobs, unemployment and wages as key issues.

(For some questions, the poll listed results for overall respondents, while for others, answers were limited to registered voters. Data provided with the poll showed that 970 of the 1201 respondents were registered voters.)

One-third of Americans (34%) agreed with the statement, “There is a wide-scale effort to limit women’s reproductive health choices and services, such as abortion, family planning and contraception.” Positive responses rose 6 percentage points from 2012. Opinion split along party lines, as about half the Republican women said the effort to limit access was a good thing.

Among registered voters, most Democrats see their party’s frontrunner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as the candidate who will best represent their views on reproductive health. Republican voters don’t have a clear cut view of which candidate best represents their views on health issues; 26% say they trust developer Donald Trump while 21% say they trust US Senator Ted Cruz. Another 14% select a Democratic candidate. Democrats fare better than Republicans among independent voters, but Clinton and US Senator Bernie Sanders are nearly tied with 22% and 20% on trustworthiness in healthcare. Female voters’ responses don’t differ much from the overall response of their party affiliation.

The Kaiser poll, which has tracked public opinion on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) since the law was signed 6 years ago this week, finds that the public remains divided about President Barack Obama’s landmark legislation. After many ups and downs, the shares that view the law positively (41%) and negatively (47%) are not far from where they were in 2010. According to results released this week, about half (52%), said they have not been affected by the law, while 28% say they have been hurt and 18% say they have been helped by the law.

Opinion is far less divided than it was during the rocky rollout of the exchanges in 2013 and early 2014. However, public sentiment on the ACA had pulled even last June, around the time the US Supreme Court left the law’s tax subsidies intact in King vs. Burwell. Since then, negative opinion has climbed again as the leading Republican candidates vow to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. Among all candidates, Clinton has called for keeping the ACA largely as it; Sanders advocates moving toward a single payer system. The only other Republican still in the race, Ohio Governor John Kasich, has stood apart by expanding Medicaid in his state.

From the start, opinion on the ACA has been sharply divided along partisan lines, and that continues. More Republicans (48%) say the law has harmed them, while more Democrats (28%) say it has helped.

One healthcare issue that has captured the public’s attention: the story of lead contamination in the water supply in Flint, Michigan. Kaiser found that 63% of the respondents were following the story either “very closely” or “fairly closely.” And the respondents seemed to be engaged in the election itself. More than 51% said they are following the presidential contest “very closely” and another 30% said they are following it “fairly closely.”

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