The recent legislative debate over the state implementation of federal health care reform shows a divided electorate, but new polling data suggests Arkansas voters prefer state control over waiting on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
In the 88th General Assembly, a late-session debate over state control of health insurance exchanges being planned with federal money nearly derailed legislative business.
State lawmakers agreed to steer the planning of the exchanges to an interim study committee while allowing a $1 million federal grant to be included in the Arkansas Insurance Department budget.
One of the primary arguments for delaying state planning was made by Republicans who suggested Arkansas regulators wait for the federal courts to make a final ruling on the national health care law’s constitutionality.
Opponents of delay, primarily Democrats, argued the state needed to move forward with planning to beat a January 2013 deadline or risk letting the feds dictate Arkansas’ health insurance exchange regulations.
A new Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll, conducted on Thursday, April 21, 2011 among 582 statewide voters, shows that more Arkansans support state planning versus waiting for a final federal court verdict.
Q: During the session, state lawmakers considered legislation allowing implementation of the new federal health reform law in Arkansas. Some opposed the legislation saying it was important to wait to see if the federal courts overturned President Obama’s reforms, while others said it was important for Arkansas to move forward in designing a system that makes the most sense for the state rather than risk the federal government doing it for us. Which stance do you most agree with?
38% It is important to wait for the federal courts to decide.
49.5% It is important to design a state plan rather than allowing the federal government to develop it.
12.5% Don’t Know
Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, said the "local control" framing was effective for supporters as it saw stronger support from both Democrats and Republicans.
"I didn’t know what the results would be because I didn’t know what the balance would be between what appears to be two pretty strong frames: obviously, a resistance to so-called Obamacare, which is unpopular in Arkansas, and this local control argument, which really trumps that," Barth said.
By a similar margin, Arkansans disapproved of a recent state Supreme Court ruling that struck down Act 1, which prohibited unmarried, co-habitating couples from fostering or adopting children.
Q: The Arkansas Supreme Court recently overturned Act 1, the initiative approved by Arkansas voters in 2008, which barred the placement of foster children or adoptive children in a home where cohabitating adults reside. The Court said that the law violated Arkansans’ right to privacy. Do you approve or disapprove of the Court’s action?
38% Approve of the ruling by the Court
49.5% Disapprove of the ruling by the Court
12.5% Don’t Know
Barth noted that the disapproval level found in this poll was substantially less than the 57% approval margin by which Act 1 passed in 2008 and could signal shifting public opinion.
"It does indicate that the court may have been a little out in front of the people of Arkansas on that issue," said Barth. "It does potentially show a little bit of attitude change over the last few years on that issue."
The raw data for these two poll questions were slightly different from one another before weighting for age and Congressional Districts were accounted for.
Talk Business will release more poll results Sunday night in our TV program, which airs on KLRT-Fox 16 at 10pm. Barth will provide additional insight on questions that include job approval ratings of Sen. Mark Pryor, Gov. Mike Beebe, the Arkansas Legislature, and Congressional redistricting.
We will release the complete poll results on Monday morning at www.talkbusiness.net.