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Survey: Men and Women View Health Care as a Priority Voting Issue

By Annie Shuppy, CQ Staff

October 14, 2008 -- Health care ranks right below the economy as a top presidential voting issue, and now men are following the lead of female voters in calling it a major concern, according to a survey released Tuesday of 1,500 likely voters across the country.

The survey, released by the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, found that 64 percent of voters said the economy was the most or second most important voting issue, while 21 percent said the same of health care. In terms of personal concerns, health care ranked at the top, with 38 percent saying it was most important or second most important.

"Interestingly, the target voters, independent women, are particularly focused on health care as an important issue," said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners. Lake's group, along with Voter/Consumer Research, designed and conducted the survey.

Men, who previously have been more focused on energy issues, national security, and the war in Iraq, are closing the gap with women in ranking health care as a major concern. In the survey, 39 percent of women said health care was the top or second concern, while 36 percent of men said the same. These results are a break from the past, the pollsters said.

"Women have traditionally been the health care decision makers, and that's translated over to politics, too," Lake said.

Among worries about health care, 30 percent of voters said they worry most about premiums or co-pays going up. The fear of losing health insurance came in second, with 16 percent naming that as a top worry.

The voters surveyed indicated support for a major federal government role in the health care system, even if it means raising taxes. Even if it meant major federal government involvement, 64 percent of voters favored—including 51 percent who strongly favored—providing access to affordable, quality health care for all Americans. If it meant raising taxes, 64 percent favored it, with a slightly lower 44 percent still strongly favoring it.

A majority of the voters surveyed—more than 90 percent—said that both catching and treating and improving preventive care for those at high risk chronic disease should be a priority in improving the health care system. The bulk of those surveyed were familiar with chronic diseases, but 60 percent of them did not think chronic disease had been discussed much by people running for political office.

"Seventy percent of women either have a chronic disease or know someone who has one, but they don't think candidates are talking about it," said Republican pollster Brenda Wigger of Voter/Consumer Research Inc.

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