Wednesday, September 23, 2009

U.S. Regional Differences in Health Care Reform Attitudes (9/23)

The political fortunes of the Republican party have been heading south in recent years, both literally and figuratively. A Daily Kos/Research 2000 national poll (September 14-17) found that, whereas 50% of respondents from the South gave the GOP a favorable rating, the percentages doing so from the Northeast, Midwest, and West regions were minuscule, ranging from 7-14%. These findings have sparked some commentaries from the blogosphere (here and here; hat tip).

One of the commentators, Joshua Tucker, offered the following analogy: "Quite seriously, if I saw this type of regional distribution of support for a political party in a country like Slovakia, I would assume the party represented an ethnic minority."

Tucker concluded with this suggestion: "...I wonder if we’ve hit the point where the mainstream media ought to be reporting support for the president, congress, political parties, etc. not in terms of the country as a whole, but rather by providing two numbers: support in the South and support in the rest of the country excluding the South?"

In today's entry, I provide such a breakdown for support of President Obama's and the Democrats' health care reform proposals. Before presenting the results, I want to warn that the information is limited, due to many pollsters' either not providing cross-tabulated percentages (i.e., demographics by support) at all in their free online documentation, or not doing so by region.

Thus, some of the polls are older than I'd like them to be, plus the question gauging support is not the same from poll to poll (i.e., sometimes regional breakdowns were available for general support, sometimes for public-option support, etc.). I encountered similar difficulties when I reported on age and gender breakdowns in support. Here are the numbers on region (as always, you may click on the graphic to enlarge it)...

Despite the different areas of focus in the questions used in this analysis (i.e., general support for reform, the public option, Obama's handling of the issue), the trends were pretty similar across polling outfits. As seen further in the graphs, Southerners were pretty consistently the least likely regional group to respond favorably to Obama and the Democrats' reform plans. However, the dip in support from the South (relative to other regions) is not always that large, particularly compared to the Midwest and the West. Thus, the South does not appear to be as different from the rest of the country on health care attitudes as it was on favorability toward the Republican party. The nature of the questions and dates in the field for these polls are as follows.

Economist/YouGov (September 13-15). “Overall, given what you know about them, do you support or oppose the proposed changes to the health care system being developed by Congress and the Obama administration?”

Daily Kos/Research 2000 (August 31-September 3). “Do you favor or oppose creating a government-administered health insurance option that anyone can purchase to compete with private insurance plans?”

Marist (August 3-6). “Do you approve or disapprove of how President Barack Obama is handling health care?”

Gallup (August 31-September 2). “Would you advise your member of Congress to vote for or against a healthcare reform bill when they return to Washington in September, or do you not have an opinion?”

I am also monitoring state-specific polling numbers.

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