University of Mississippi

The Dynamics of Health Care Opinion 2008 – 2010: Partisanship, Self-Interest, and Racial Resentment

Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 2011 Volume 36, Number 6: 945-960

fp-henderson2by Michael Henderson and D. Sunshine Hillygus

Recent debate over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act highlights the extent of party polarization in Washington. While the partisan divide on this issue is stark among political elites, it is less clear how the mass electorate has responded to this divisive conflict. In this article we examine individual-level dynamics in health care attitudes between 2008 and 2010. We find partisan attachments and self-interests strongly predict change in health care attitudes, with Republicans growing more opposed to universal health insurance between 2008 and 2010, and those personally worried about medical expenses less likely to abandon support. We find, however, that the effect of partisanship is moderated by self-interest, with strong Republicans significantly less likely to switch to opposition if they were personally worried about medical expenses. Finally, we find that health care policy preferences, already tinged with racial attitudes in 2008, became increasingly so by 2010.