Mass. Voters See Statewide Improvements for Healthcare but Not for Themselves

December 13, 2011

AMHERST, Mass. - A political poll conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst finds that most state residents don’t think their own health care has been improved by the health care reform law approved in Massachusetts in 2006, but nearly four-in-10 say overall health care in the state has improved. A majority of voters also say they’ll neither support nor will punish legislators who voted to legalize casino gambling.

The new UMass Amherst poll is run by Brian Schaffner, director, and Raymond La Raja, associate director, both associate professors of political science. This initial round of polling, done between Nov. 9 and Nov. 22, reflects the views of a sample of 500 adults in Massachusetts. The Internet survey was conducted by YouGov America (http://yougov.com) and the margin of error for the poll is 4.4 percent.

On health care, the poll finds that most Massachusetts adults do not think that their own health care has improved as a result of the health care reform enacted in the state in 2006, but 39 percent report that it has improved health care over all in the state. At the same time, 30 percent think that it has made health care in the state worse.

The groups that are most likely to say that their own health care has improved as a result of the legislation are those who are younger and have lower incomes. A majority of adults say that health care reform has made no difference in their own health care, the poll finds. 

Schaffner says, "As health care continues to be a contentious issue at the national level, opinions toward the Massachusetts reform are instructive. Even in Massachusetts, there is some debate about the impact of the reform, and only about one-in-six adults say that their own health care has improved as a result."

Massachusetts’ voters have weighed in on whether they will support or punish elected officials who voted for casinos, Schaffner and La Raja say. Most registered voters - almost half - say it would not affect their vote one way or the other. Of those who do care, 23 percent say they are more likely to vote for their state representative who supported the casinos while 27 percent say they would be less likely. 

Conservatives and voters who attend church regularly were most likely to say they would be less likely to vote for a state representative who favored the casino legislation. There was also opposition from voters with incomes over $100,000.

"The message for legislators is that most voters won’t care about their vote, but expect to hear from more conservative and wealthy voters who do not like the prospect of seeing casinos in Massachusetts," La Raja says. "If you voted for casinos I would not emphasize this in your fundraising letters."

Schaffner says, "It appears that the electoral prospects of most state representatives will be unaffected by this vote. But there is a possibility that some lawmakers in districts with a lot of conservative and religious voters could run into trouble if they voted in favor of the casino bill."

The polling also looked at other state-oriented issues. The Legislature has been considering removing the ban on "happy hour" alcohol sales. The UMass Amherst poll finds that opinion is divided on this issue, with 48 percent favoring the elimination of the "happy hour" ban, but 43 percent desiring that the ban be kept in place.

And one of the potential ballot initiatives in 2012 will focus on the extent to which teacher personnel decisions should be based on merit rather than seniority. An overwhelming 84 percent of Massachusetts adults think that decisions to promote or fire teachers should be based more on effectiveness rather than seniority, but only 32 percent think that seniority should play no role in such decisions, the poll says.

Contacts: 
Brian Schaffner, 413/545-0416, schaffne@polsci.umass.edu
Ray La Raja, 413/545-6182, laraja@polsci.umass.edu