IssuesPA/Pew Poll Shows Healthcare Is A Pivotal Issue In 2006 Gubernatorial Race

IssuesPA/Pew Poll Shows Healthcare Is A Pivotal Issue In 2006 Gubernatorial Race

A new IssuesPA/Pew poll shows that Pennsylvanians say healthcare in the Commonwealth is headed in the wrong direction.

According to the poll, more people think health care has gotten worse in Pennsylvania in the last four years than think it has improved. Forty-three percent of state residents think health care is worse now than it was four years ago, while just 10 percent think it is better. Fifty percent of swing voters – those who say they remain open to voting for either major party candidate for Governor – think healthcare is worse in the state now.

Among all voters, health care trails taxes and crime as the issues most important to their vote. However, swing voters are more likely to consider healthcare the most important issue facing Pennsylvania than voters supporting one of the two major party candidates for Governor. Twelve percent of swing voters are more likely to name health care as the issue that will be most important in deciding which candidate to back, versus eight percent of likely Rendell voters and five percent of likely Swann voters.

Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRA) conducted the poll for IssuesPA, the non-partisan statewide awareness project focused on raising the issues most critical to Pennsylvania's economic future. Funding for the survey was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The margin of error is plus/minus three percentage points.

“As it is across much of the country, healthcare affordability and availability remain critical issues for Pennsylvanians,” said Steven Wray, Project Director of IssuesPA and Deputy Director of the Pennsylvania Economy League's office in Philadelphia. “All signs point to the candidates' positions on healthcare being a significant factor in the outcome of this year's Governor's race.”

Who's Responsible For What?

Pennsylvanians surveyed overwhelmingly say they feel responsible for their own health – 97 percent say they feel a lot or some personal responsibility for their own health. However, they're frustrated over costs - six in 10 (59%) Pennsylvanians feel they have little or no control over what they pay for their health care.

Many feel powerless when it comes to controlling the medical costs and are turning to government for the answer. Twenty-nine percent of Pennsylvania voters identify the candidates' positions on reducing healthcare costs as the healthcare-related issue that will be most important in determining their vote in this year's elections. Concerns about health care costs have consistently rated first in previous IssuesPA/Pew polling on the topic of health care. Political Independents and Democrats support a bigger government role in paying for healthcare. Fifty-seven percent of Independents and 61 percent of Democrats think government should pay most of the costs of continuing care for chronic conditions. A smaller, but still sizable proportion of Republicans (47 percent) concur.

Additionally, there is widespread sentiment that government should pay most of the costs for medical services such as catastrophic care (close to half – 46 percent – think government should cover catastrophic costs) and continuing care for chronic conditions (55 percent).

The problem of the uninsured is the second major healthcare concern – 17 percent identify providing insurance for uninsured children as the most important health care issue.

In the Community

The IssuesPA/Pew poll also asked Pennsylvania residents about other important issues in the gubernatorial campaign – those related to the vitality of Pennsylvania's communities. Major findings on community issues follow:

  • Taxes and crime top Pennsylvanians' list of issues related to community vitality that will influence their voting decisions this year, and government support for the arts is at the bottom of the list.  
  • Development - Seventy-three percent of Pennsylvanians solidly oppose government taking properties for private development projects. Pennsylvanians are divided on whether new development should be allowed in areas without existing schools, sewer systems, and other infrastructure.  
  • Environment - By a wide margin, Keystone state residents (58 percent) prefer voluntary conservation over stricter regulations as the best way for government to try to protect the environment.  
  • Natural Disasters - More Pennsylvanians (51 percent) want the federal government to take charge when disasters strike than to let state and local government officials manage the situation.  
  • Gun Control - Four in 10 state residents think local communities should have the authority to go beyond federal and state gun control laws and further restrict firearms. A quarter of Pennsylvanians think no level of government has any business putting any limits on guns.

    About the Poll

    The March 2006 IssuesPA/Pew Poll, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Economy League and The Pew Charitable Trusts, was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Telephone interviews were conducted from March 14-22, 2006 with 1,504 Pennsylvania adults, age 18 and over, of which 1,229 identified themselves as registered voters. The results have been statistically weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The overall margin of sampling error for results based on registered voters is plus or minus three percentage points. 

    About IssuesPA

    IssuesPA is a nonpartisan statewide awareness project focused exclusively on raising the issues most critical to Pennsylvania's economic future. The Pennsylvania Economy League initially launched IssuesPA to promote issue awareness around the 2002 gubernatorial election. IssuesPA is now the leading resource on state-level issues and policies in Pennsylvania, coupled with a dynamic, multi-media outreach strategy. IssuesPA is funded in part by The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Heinz Endowments and the William Penn Foundation.

    About the Pennsylvania Economy League

    The Pennsylvania Economy League (PEL) is an independent, nonprofit public policy research organization. PEL is a force for positive change - the state's leading regionally based, statewide public policy organization. Working with Pennsylvania's public and private sectors, PEL provides independent research and insight on emerging issues to stimulate public and private action to make Pennsylvania a better place to live, work, and do business. PEL's goal is to create a knowledgeable corporate and civic audience that will ensure the Commonwealth's economic competitiveness.