Obamacare doesn’t explain closeness of Virginia vote

If Ken Cuccinelli only had another week to hammer on Obamacare, maybe he could have beaten Terry McAuliffe in the race for Virginia governor. That theory is being floated as a reason for the narrowness of the race, but appears to not hold up according to exit polling from the Virginia governor’s race.

Voters in Virginia on Tuesday opposed the 2010 health care law by 53 percent to 46 percent, according to the exit polls. Intensity was certainly against it, with strong opposition to it outnumbering strong support by 41 to 27 percent. Opponents of the law - a largely Republican group - favored Cuccinelli over McAuliffe by an astounding 81 to 11 margin.

Those numbers show the vote for governor broke clearly along support for health care, which jibes with Cuccinelli’s strong opposition to the law and his campaign’s focus against it. But the exit polls also show health care far from voters’ top concern.

The exit poll asked voters to pick among four issues, which was most important in their vote. Some 45 percent picked the economy. Trailing by 18 percentage points was health care, with 27 percent naming it the most important issue, followed by abortion (20 percent) and transportation (4 percent). And Cuccinelli by no means locked up those voters who identified health care as their top concern. They split 49 percent to 45 percent in his favor.

Unlike those who oppose the health care law - an overwhelmingly Republican group who would be supporting Cuccinelli regardless of the healthcare issue - the voters who identified health care as their top voting concern were not one sided in their partisanship. Just about as many Democrats as Republicans picked health care as their top issue.

The troubled rollout of the HealthCare.gov Web site likely affected too few voters for those problems to have had a real impact in the weeks before the election. Among the population of Virginia residents age 19 to 64 - eligible to vote but not eligible for Medicare - just 19 percent are uninsured, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The narrowness of the race had more to do with Cuccinelli’s ability to solidify his base of Republican supporters, win among independent voters and remain competitive among women.

The fact that Cuccinelli won independents by a nine percentage point margin overall is wrapped up in the fact that these voters mainly opposed health care. Over six in 10 independents in Virginia opposed the law as did 58 percent in New Jersey exit polls.


Peyton M. Craighill is polling manager for the Washington Post. Peyton reports and conducts national and regional news polls for the Washington Post, with a focus on politics, elections and other social and economic issues.



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