Political pundits looking to handicap the 2012 election cycle have long-considered support for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act--the 2009 Health Care reform act--to be a liability for 2012 candidates. Some moderate Democrats facing 2012 reelections have reportedly even discussed ways to roll back more contentious parts of the legislation as a means of separating themselves from the bill. Republican leaders, meanwhile, have repeatedly hinted at their intention to make their opposition to the health care law a centerpiece of the 2012 campaign.
However, Project New West's research in one key battleground state shows that the political debate over health care reform in 2012 may not be so clear-cut. PNW's recent New Mexico poll shows that a majority in the state feel the legislation--while far from perfect--actually moves the country in the right direction.
PNW asked 603 likely 2012 voters to choose between two statements:
Statement A: The new health care law is big government spending at its worst. It prevents millions of small businesses from hiring more workers, runs up our deficit by 600 billion dollars over ten years, and it doesn’t do anything to reduce health care costs.
Statement B: While it’s not perfect, the new federal health care law begins to fix our broken health care system. It protects access to health care for seniors and children by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, preventing insurance companies from denying coverage for preexisting conditions or when people get sick, and extending health care for young adults.
Seventy percent of registered Democrats agreed most with the statement that the law was a positive step toward fixing our health care system. 49 percent of independent voters agreed. Together those two groups account for roughly 63 percent of likely New Mexico voters. Support for the positive statement was also particularly high among Hispanic voters, among whom 56 percent agreed more strongly with the positive statement on health care reform.
To be clear, PNW's research does not indicate that a majority support the health care reform law. Rather, the poll suggests that candidates in New Mexico need not run away from the Affordable Care Act to endear themselves to the electorate. If candidates, elected officials and civic organizations can effectively communicate the Act’s tangible benefits – some of which are already in place-- there's no reason to expect support for health care reform to be a weakness in 2012.