Four in ten voters don’t see either Obama’s or McCain’s health care plan as better for them

For immediate release: Wednesday, October 1, 2008

As part of the ongoing poll series, Debating Health: Election 2008, the Harvard Public Opinion Research Program at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Harris Interactive® conducted a new survey focused on how voters think the presidential candidates’ health care reform plans would affect thempersonally - rather than how they think the plans would affect the nation as a whole.  The survey found that voters view the candidates’ plans differently from this perspective.  Four in ten registered voters don’t believe one candidate’s health care plan would be better for them than the other.  (This includes those who think there wouldn’t be a difference for them between the plans (27%) and those who don’t know if there would be (13%)).  More voters think Senator Barack Obama’s plan would be better for them than Senator John McCain’s plan (33% vs. 27%).  This survey was conducted September 17-21, 2008, by telephone among a national cross section of 935 registered voters in the United States.

“The most interesting finding is not that Obama does better than McCain (Obama has a more substantial lead in other polls about which candidate is better at handling health care), but that Obama’s lead is narrower on these questions that focus on how the plans would affect them personally,” says Humphrey Taylor, Chairman of The Harris Poll®.  “These are not bad results for the McCain campaign.”

Among several critical voting groups, many don’t see one plan as offering an advantage to them over the other.  Among independents, a majority either see no difference in whether the two candidates’ health care plans would be better for them or don’t know if there would be a difference (51%).  Those who do feel there would be a difference are split in a statistical tie (26% for McCain vs. 24% for Obama).  Among seniors, a near majority see no difference or don’t know which plan would be better for them (46%), and those who do see a difference are also tied (27% vs. 27%).

“Ultimately independents are the key to winning this race, and at the moment they are up for grabs in terms of whether they see McCain’s plan or Obama’s plan as better for them,” says Robert Blendon, Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health.

On the other hand, certain segments do believe Obama’s plan would serve them better.  More women think Barack Obama’s health care plan would be better for them personally than John McCain’s plan (38% vs. 21%), even though a large share also thinks there would be no difference between the plans or doesn’t know if there would be (41%).  By comparison, men are tied even among those who think there would be a difference between the plans (29% vs. 32%).  Thus, women appear to be driving Obama’s current lead on this question.  The uninsured are also more likely to think Obama’s health care plan will be better for them (53% vs. 26%), as are the disabled (37% vs. 22%).

Obama’s plan leads the most on the issue of providing insurance coverage.  Those who are uninsured believe Obama’s plan would be more likely to provide them with coverage (45% vs. 14%).  And, people who are currently insured believe that they would be more likely to be protected from losing their insurance under Obama’s plan (31% vs. 19%).

Obama has a smaller lead with respect to views of the cost and quality of health care under his plan.  More people think Obama’s plan would require lower payments from them (27% vs. 19%) and would deliver better quality of care for them (27% vs. 21%).  But, the plans come out equally in terms of how long it would take to get an appointment with their doctor (19% vs. 18%) and how much they would pay in taxes (33% vs. 32%).

The previous poll in this series focused on health care for veterans:  “Americans Believe Wounded Iraq War Veterans Are Not Receiving High Quality Medical Care When They Return to the U.S.;  Families With Military or Veteran Connection Also Hold Critical View;  McCain Seen in Poll as Best Candidate on Issue.”  This topic was discussed as part of the first presidential debate. (The Veterans survey can be found at: http://www.harrisinteractive.com/news/allnewsbydate.asp?NewsID=1309 )

 

Table 1

Presidential Candidate’s Health Care Reform Plan More Likely to Be Better For You:

Obama Vs. McCain

“Overall, whose health care reform plan – John McCain or Barack Obama’s – would be better for you, or do you think there won’t be much difference?”

Total

Party ID

Gender

Insurance Status

Disability Status

Rep Dem Ind Male Female Insured Uninsured NotDisabled Disabled
Obama’s Plan Better 33% 4% 68% 24% 29% 38% 30% 53% 33% 37%
McCain’s Plan Better 27% 62% 3% 26% 32% 21% 27% 26% 27% 22%
No Difference 27% 21% 21% 35% 27% 28% 29% 16% 27% 29%
Don’t Know/
Ref
13% 12% 8% 16% 12% 13% 14% 5% 13% 11%

 

Table 2

Presidential Health Care Reform Plan Coverage: Obama Vs. McCain

“When it comes to [COVERAGE], whose health care reform plan – Barack Obama’s or John McCain’s – would be better for you, or do you think there won’t be much difference?”

Insured

Uninsured

Obama’s Plan
Better
McCain’s Plan
Better
Obama’s Plan
Better
McCain’s Plan
Better
Providing you with health insurance coverage 45% 14%
Protecting you from losing your health insurance 31% 19%

*Voters stating there would be no difference or don’t know/refused have been omitted.

  

Table 3

Presidential Health Care Reform Plan Advantages: Obama Vs. McCain

“When it comes to [ADVANTAGE], whose health care reform plan – Barack Obama’s or John McCain’s – would be better for you, or do you think there won’t be much difference?”

Obama’s Plan Better

McCain’s Plan Better

How much you pay in taxes 33% 32%
The quality of the health care you receive 27% 21%
How much you pay for health care and insurance 27% 19%
How long it takes you to get an appointment to see your doctor 19% 18%

*Voters stating there would be no difference or don’t know/refused have been omitted.

Base: 935 Registered Voters

Source: Debating Health: Election 2008, Harvard School of Public Health/Harris Interactive

September 17-21, 2008

Methodology

This survey is part of the series, Debating Health: Election 2008. The series focuses on current health issues in the presidential campaign. The survey design team includes Professor Robert Blendon, Gillian SteelFisher, John Benson and Kathleen Weldon of the Harvard School of Public Health; and Humphrey Taylor, Scott Hawkins and Justin Greeves of Harris Interactive.

This survey was conducted by telephone within the United States among a nationwide cross section of adults aged 18 and over, and statistics here focus on those who are registered to vote.  The survey was conducted September 17-21, 2008 among a representative sample of 935 respondents.  Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, number of adults in the household, size of place (urbanicity) and number of phone lines in the household were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.

All sample surveys and polls are subject to multiple sources of error including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments.  The sampling error for registered voters is +/- 3.2% in 95 out of 100 cases for results based on the entire sample.  For results based on a smaller subset, the sampling error is somewhat larger.

About the Harvard School of Public Health

Harvard School of Public Health is dedicated to advancing the public’s health through learning, discovery, and communication. More than 400 faculty members are engaged in teaching and training the 1,000-plus student body in a broad spectrum of disciplines crucial to the health and well being of individuals and populations around the world. Programs and projects range from the molecular biology of AIDS vaccines to the epidemiology of cancer; from risk analysis to violence prevention; from maternal and children’s health to quality of care measurement; from health care management to international health and human rights. For more information on the school visit: www.hsph.harvard.edu

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is a global leader in custom market research. With a long and rich history in multimodal research, powered by our science and technology, we assist clients in achieving business results. Harris Interactive serves clients globally through our North American, European and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms.

 

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