| August 15, 2013

Oklahoma voters show wariness of Obamacare Medicaid expansion

With the Obamacare Medicaid expansion currently a hot topic of conversation, the nonpartisan Liberty Foundation of America has commissioned broad surveys in a number of states to gauge voter opinion on the subject, including one in Oklahoma this past May. That survey polled 865 likely general election voters and had a margin of error at +/- 3.33 percent.

The resulting data provide insight into the Oklahoma electorate’s views on the expansion of Medicaid as allowed in the federal Obamacare law. When considering these results, it is worth noting that Oklahoma has seen every county vote for the Republican nominee in each of the past three presidential election cycles. Also, every statewide elected office is now held by a Republican, and both houses of the state Legislature feature super-majority Republican control.

Some highlights from the survey:

(1) The partisan split between Republicans and Democrats is enormous on Medicaid expansion, with Republican voters strongly opposed to the expansion and Democrats in favor. Independent voters are somewhat split on this issue.

(2) Among all voters (AAV), 52 percent think it is time to give some new candidates a chance in office in the upcoming 2014 election cycle.

(3) AAV, a plurality of voters (47 percent) believe that Medicaid is a “flawed program that wastes a lot of money, has problems of fraud and abuse, and is in severe need of reform.” As noted below, this is a strong argument in the minds of Oklahoma voters against expansion of Medicaid. In the cross-tabulations (Table 4-1), 67.4 percent of Republicans hold this belief along with 45.2 percent of Independents.

(4) AAV, Medicaid expansion is opposed by a 46.2 percent to 41.9 percent plurality. In the cross-tabulations (Table 5-1), 66.2 percent of Republicans hold this belief along with 45.2 percent of Independents.

(5) When the wide variance in the estimated number of Medicaid enrollees (and associated taxpayer costs) as a result of expansion is considered, a near-majority of voters oppose Medicaid expansion at 49 percent. In the cross-tabulations (Table 6-1), 69.4 percent of Republicans hold this view along with 41 percent of Independents. Again, as noted below, this is another strong argument in the minds of many voters against expansion. The Ohio Speaker of the House specifically cited this variance as the reason the Ohio House of Representatives rejected Medicaid expansion.

(6) Regarding the seven messaging questions tested, top pollsters will tell you that any percentage above 40 percent who find an argument "very compelling" is the gold standard because when "somewhat compelling" voters are added, you easily surpass the 50 percent threshold. AAV, five arguments against Medicaid expansion polled very strongly. Namely, more than 40 percent AAV found these arguments “very compelling”:

  • 54%: Medicaid should not be expanded until the waste, fraud, and abuse in the program is cleaned up;
  • 49%: Because there is so much disagreement among experts on the costs of expanding Medicaid, we shouldn’t rush into any expansion until we have a better handle on the financial consequences;
  • 44%: We can’t count on the debt-ridden federal government’s contribution to Oklahoma Medicaid to last forever, so in the future Oklahoma taxpayers will be left to foot the bill for all the new Medicaid recipients added;
  • 42%: Expanding Medicaid would allow too many able-bodied young people to get insurance, even if they just choose not to work to provide for their own healthcare needs; and
  • 41%: Expanding Medicaid would just give the federal government more power and control over our lives.

With that same set of questions, the cross-tabulation findings are the key to interpreting the survey results. Of the seven arguments, two polled very high among Republican voters and Independent voters, with another two arguments grabbing a solid group of Independent voters. The specific findings are in Tables 7-1, 8-1, 9-1, 10-1, 11-1, 12-1, and 13-1.

Percent Who Found Argument "Very Convincing"

(Click on chart to enlarge)

Policymakers across the country in states like Ohio, Florida, South Carolina, and elsewhere are receiving strong pushback from their Republican voting bases when the issue of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is considered. The results of the Liberty Foundation survey suggest the same dynamic likely exists in Oklahoma.

Legislators and statewide elected officials are finding that when they hold an open and honest conversation with their constituents about the many factors involved with Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, their constituents are often opposed to expansion. In Oklahoma, the survey data suggest that the voting base of Republican elected officials is unequivocally against expansion, and unaffiliated voters break toward rejecting expansion when details are provided.

We urge you to download copies of the slide presentation and the cross-tabulations from the Magellan Strategies survey.

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