Is Race a Factor in Who Supports Obama's Health Care Legislation?

A new report says the Affordable Care Act is contentious for reasons beyond whether the mandate is constitutional.

Posted: 03/27/2012 12:17 PM EDT

President Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) expands health coverage for the uninsured and underinsured, aims at reducing racial health disparities and will make it illegal for an insurance company to deny anyone because of a pre-existing condition. For these reasons, the ACA has faced plenty of opposition over the years. The Supreme Court will be ruling if the ACA is unconstitutional because of its individual mandate that requires most Americans to either purchase health insurance or pay a fine.


But if the legislation betters the health of Americans, then what is the problem?

Michael Tesler, a political science professor at Brown and public opinion expert, says  more might be going on, specifically racism and bias, given that President Obama is our nation's first Black president. And his new paper suggests that might be the case.

By using survey data, Tesler suggests that racial attitudes play a factor not only in how Americans view health care reform but how strong those feelings are. He found that, over time, African-Americans overall have become increasingly supportive of the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, there are differences between liberal whites and conservative whites when it comes to support for the ACA.

According to NPR, Tesler's race experiment had some eye-opening results:


In an experiment, Tesler presents a health care overhaul policy to whites, telling some that the policy is advocated by Bill Clinton and telling others that it's advocated by Barack Obama; Tesler finds that whites with liberal racial attitudes become more supportive of the policy when they think Obama is its chief advocate, while whites with a conservative attitude become less supportive of the policy when they think of health care as an Obama policy.

The study is part of a broad range of research projects that shows that issues such as race and religion play a powerful role in shaping how people feel about policies related to war, welfare and crime.


And while past studies have found that voters tend to align themselves with politicians who share common identity characteristics — religion, geographic location and race — these findings are somewhat bothersome when you think about what's at stake.

Do you support policies depending on who presents them and supports them?


Read more about how the ACA and the benefits of it here.



BET Health News - We go beyond the music and entertainment world to bring you important medical information and health-related tips of special relevance to Blacks in the U.S. and around the world.

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