Republican leaders want to move past Obamacare repeal, but most GOP voters aren’t ready to let them do it.
That’s a key finding of the latest POLITICO-Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll, which finds the Trump administration’s messaging on health care is clearly resonating with the party’s base.
Story Continued Below
The poll asked Americans to review and score 10 top priorities for Congress through the end of the year. Fifty-three percent of Republican respondents said taking action to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act should be an “extremely important priority,” while another 26 percent of Republicans said it should be a “very important priority.” Only 16 percent of Republicans said ACA repeal should not be a priority for Congress.
Congressional Republicans’ efforts to strike down the health law have sputtered, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other leaders saying the party should move on to tax reform. But President Donald Trump has repeatedly urged the party to vote on Obamacare repeal one more time. The White House has thrown its support behind the last-ditch plan from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) that would convert ACA funding into block grants.
Trump’s complaints about congressional inaction on health care have struck a chord with voters on the right, said Harvard’s Robert Blendon, an expert on health care policy and public opinion who designed the poll with POLITICO.
“The president’s concerns and criticisms of walking away from another effort to replace the ACA have really stuck among Republican [voters],” Blendon said. “The takeaway is that [Congress] should make one more try at changing the ACA rather than the proposed tax reforms.”
Overall, just 26 percent of adults said that repealing Obamacare should be an “extremely important” priority for Congress. Sixty percent of Democrats thought it should not be a priority at all.
Among Republican respondents, repealing Obamacare was the most critical priority, outpacing other concerns like tax reform (34 percent said that the issue was “extremely important”) and building a border wall (28 percent thought it was “extremely important”). Eighty-two percent of Republican respondents did think that reducing the budget deficit and federal spending should be an “extremely” or “very important” priority.
The most critical issue for all voters was lowering prescription drug prices, with 40 percent of overall respondents saying it was an “extremely important” priority and 31 percent saying it was a “very important” priority. It was also the most urgent priority for Democrats (51 percent said it was “extremely important”) and independent voters (36 percent said it was “extremely important”).
Blendon said the focus on drug price reform was an “overwhelming” indicator that the issue is resonating around the nation, even if lawmakers’ plans are on the back burner. “It’s unbelievably salient for voters, but it’s not really salient for Congress,” he said.
Blendon also said that the drug price polling should be a signal to Democrats eyeing campaigns in 2018 and 2020. “There’s been a great deal of focus on the number of prominent Democrats who have endorsed ‘Medicare for all'” or other single-payer plans, he said. “But the next big issue for them should be the drug price issue.”
Many Democrats also thought Congress should continue to prioritize investigations into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, with 44 percent of Democrats saying it was “extremely important” and 21 percent saying it was “very important.” Just 11 percent of Republicans thought the Russia investigation was “extremely” or “very” important.
The lowest-ranked priority for all respondents was building a border wall with Mexico (only 11 percent thought it was “extremely important”) followed by limiting immigration (17 percent thought it was “extremely important”).
The survey was conducted by SSRS, an independent research company, for POLITICO and Harvard from Aug. 30 to Sept. 3. It used cellphones and landlines among a nationally representative sample of 1,016 U.S. adults.