PA-18 Exit Poll Shows Healthcare Could Be A Big Winner For Democrats In Midterm

An exit poll released by Public Policy Polling  (PPP) on Wednesday found that healthcare was the single most important issue for voters in Tuesday’s special election in Pennsylvania.  This is without question excellent news for Democrats getting ready for the critical midterm elections in November.

According a press release issued by PPP:

“Public Policy Polling conducted a telephone exit poll election survey of voters who cast ballots in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District special election yesterday. Voters who voted in the contest were asked about the role of health care in their decision. The exit poll shows that health care was a top priority issue to voters in this district and that voters believed Democrat Conor Lamb’s views were more in step with theirs.”

Other findings from the poll include:

  • For 52 percent of voters, health care was ranked as a top issue when deciding who to vote for.
  • Only 19 percent of voters said healthcare it wasn’t at all important to them in deciding who to vote for.
  • Healthcare voters favored Democrat Conor Lamb over his opponent Republican Rick Saccone 64-36 percent, according to the poll. (Healthcare voters said healthcare was the most important issue to them.”
  • A majority of voters said Lamb was “more in step” with their opinions on healthcare issues than Saccone.
  • The poll also found that 53 percent disapprove of Republican efforts to repeal ObamaCare, while just 39 percent approve.

“It’s crystal clear health care is a top issue for voters,” said Brad Woodhouse, campaign director of Protect Our Care, a pro-ObamaCare group. “If Republicans can’t win on the issue of health care in a district Trump won by 20 points in 2016, where can they? It’s time to move on from their repeal and replace ObamaCare.”

Many observers think healthcare was the deciding issue that caused Lamb to win in a very close race.  Democrats also think this is the issue that will allow them to take back control of Congress in November. (Or at least take back the U.S. House of Representatives.)

One thing Lamb did NOT do was support single payer healthcare or “Medicare for All.”  He did run many ads promising to protect Medicare and health care coverage, however, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA) also known as Obamacare.  

In some of his advertising Lamb specifically mentioned the GOP attacks on the ACA:  “Republicans in Congress spent the past year trying to take health insurance away from people with no plan to replace it. Now, costs are likely to go up for many of us, especially those with preexisting conditions. That is unacceptable, and it’s a failure of leadership.”

Surveys have shown that the healthcare cost issue and the preexisting condition issue are extremely important to the average middle class voter.  So it appears that focusing on healthcare played an important role in giving Lamb his upset victory in a very Republican area of the country.

A lesson from Tuesday is that campaigning against Obamacare is the wrong strategy for Republicans, even though that is what they want to do.  Recent polls have shown the ACA to be more popular right now than it has ever been. A Kaiser Foundation Poll released March 1 found that 54% of respondents said they view the controversial healthcare law favorably.  This is the highest favorability rating for Obamacare in eight years. Clearly Republicans efforts to repeal Obamacare hurt them with voters, even in “red” districts that voted for Trump in 2016.  The question now is whether they will change their positions on healthcare or go down to defeat in November.