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Non-Voters and Health Reform: Indifference and Confusion Over the New Law

The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll assessed the role health reform played in voters’1 decisions in the midterm elections and the public’s overall mood towards the health reform law. This blog post focuses on a different group, people who say they are not registered or did not vote in last week’s election, and examines how their views on the health reform law differ from those that said they did vote.

As is usually the case, particularly in midterm elections, the survey found voters are more likely to be older, Republican, college-educated, and white, all of which we’ve found in past surveys to be associated with negative views on health reform. In contrast, non-voters are more likely to be younger, ‘pure independent’, less educated, and non-white.

In general, non-voters have less strongly held views, express more confusion about the law, and are more likely to support the status quo than those who say they voted. Almost a third of non-voters declined to offer an opinion of the law (31 percent vs. 10 percent for voters) and a plurality say that it will have no impact on them personally (41 percent), whereas voters tilt more negatively toward the law (42 percent favorable, 49 percent unfavorable), with four in ten saying that they and the country will be worse off under the new law. The differences do not end there – more than half of non-voters feel ‘confused’ about the legislation (57 percent vs. 48 percent for voters) while voters are more likely to feel ‘angry’ (38 percent vs. 23 percent). Non-voters are also more likely to support leaving the law as it is or expanding it (46 percent vs. 36 percent of voters), as opposed to voters who are more likely to favor repealing all or parts of the law (56 percent vs. 40 percent of non-voters).

Policy-insights-healthreform_nonvoters
*indicates statistically significant difference between voters and non-voters

1In this survey, 59 percent of the public overall reported voting in the midterm election, which is much higher than the estimated 41.5 percent of the voting-eligible population that actually turned out to vote. Vote over-reporting is common in public opinion surveys, and is a particular concern for data quality if one party’s supporters over-report at higher rates than the other party’s supporters. The percent who report voting for the Democratic and Republican candidates in this survey (47 percent and 51 percent, respectively) are close to the current estimates of the national vote count of 45 percent Democrat, 52 percent Republican.