Memo to Senate Democrats: The Self-Insured Who Lost Their Health Insurance Are Conservatives

| November 12 2013
John Walker

As panic spreads among Senate Democrats up for reelection next year, they are sure to consider the unique political impact of the nearly four million Americans who have lost their health insurance because of Obamacare’s strict requirements. It’s more bad news.

Resurgent Republic, a Washington-based group that studies and circulates issue and voter data, reports that the self-insured who have lost their health insurance represent a significant group of conservative voters. They are solidly middle class. They are likely voters who go to the polls.

The most vulnerable Senate Democrats – Pryor in Arkansas, Landrieu in Louisiana, Hagan in North Carolina, and Begich in Alaska – will feel the wrath of these voters next year. Attempts to delay or modify Obamacare will not solve their problem.

Here are the highlights Resurgent Republic’s findings:

1. The percentage of voters in the individual market is larger than their share of the population at large. Among the total U.S. population, 5 percent (or as many as 15 million people) pay for their health insurance individually, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In the lead up to last year’s presidential election, 21 percent of likely voters were in the individual market. This figure is very similar to our finding in 2009 where the self-insured equaled 18 percent of registered voters.

2. Like most voters with health insurance, self-insured voters are overwhelmingly satisfied with their coverage. Three-fourths (77 percent) of those self-insured are either very or somewhat satisfied with their plan. That’s not far off from the electorate at large where 84 percent report being very or somewhat satisfied. Therefore, the salient reason why President Obama is on the defensive regarding his “if you like it, you can keep it” pledge is not just because he misled voters. It’s because he did so on a topic where solid majorities of voters do indeed like their health plan and thereby assumed the law would not upend their coverage.

3. Strong satisfaction is not the same as apathy toward health care reform. Those with self-insurance may like what they have, but like the electorate at large, they increasingly feel the financial pinch of rising health care costs. This was the top priority for health reform among self-insured voters during the 2012 election: 41 percent controlling costs, 29 percent improving quality, and 24 percent covering the uninsured. Their priorities were the same prior to the health care debate dominating much of President Obama’s first term. In 2009, 41 percent of self-insured voters said controlling costs, 30 percent improving quality, and 16 percent covering the uninsured.

4. Voters in the individual market are twice as likely to self-identify as conservative than Republican. The partisan makeup of the individual market is split, but these voters are more likely to self-identify as Independents (33 percent) and Democrats (36 percent) than Republicans (26 percent). These figures are likely attributed to challenges with the Republican brand rather than ideology. Among the self-insured, 50 percent identify as conservative, 19 percent as moderate, and 25 percent as liberal. In addition, the percent identifying as conservatives is slightly higher than the senior-dominated cohort who receives government coverage (47 percent) or those with employer coverage (43 percent).

5. Self-insured voters are representative of the middle class voters Republicans need to reach. These voters are middle-aged (nearly two-thirds between the ages of 30 and 64) with middle class incomes (60 percent earn less than $100k a year). They are predominately white (74 percent), married (65 percent), and are more likely to live in suburban (31 percent) instead of urban areas (22 percent).

6. Despite favorable demographics, data during the 2012 campaign indicate Republicans underperformed with self-insured voters.  They held a favorable opinion of President Obama (51 to 45 percent), and an unfavorable opinion of Mitt Romney (49 to 43 percent). Congressional Republicans faced a similar 6-point deficit on favorability and a 3-point disadvantage on the generic ballot. These are not the type of numbers one would expect from this voter profile.

7. This voting bloc could have a decisive impact in close races in 2014. Four of the nine most competitive states that Senate Democrats are defending have self-insured populations at or above the national average (5 percent). These states are Montana (9 percent), South Dakota (8 percent), Iowa (6 percent), and Michigan (5 percent).  The trio of North Carolina, Arkansas, and Louisiana has a significant 4 percent each. The universe of voters among these percentages is smaller, but given their conservative bent and the probability of outpunching their weight at the ballot box, it’s understandable why several Democrats in these states are seeking to delay the individual mandate and make good on President Obama’s “if you like it, you can keep it” broken promise.

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