State residents divided on health care reform

Nearly a year after health care reform was signed into law, North Carolinians remain divided on the legislation, though a majority of respondents in the latest Elon University Poll indicated their support for many of the law’s key provisions.

Forty-one percent of respondents oppose the law and 39 percent support it. A slightly larger number of respondents – 44 percent – agree with the decision of the North Carolina General Assembly to challenge the federal government’s requirement for citizens to have health insurance. Thirty-three percent of North Carolinians disagreed with the decision.

The poll, conducted Feb. 20-24, 2011, surveyed 467 North Carolina residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points. The sample is of the population in general, with numbers that include both landlines and cellular phones. The Elon University Poll does not restrict respondents by voter eligibility or likelihood of voting.

Presented with seven specific points of the new health care law, a majority North Carolinians agree with all but two – the provision imposing a fine on Americans who do not have health insurance and providing a bonus to physicians who offer primary care services to people on Medicare.

Support for the provisions presented – options for long-term coverage, increased Medicare premiums for those with higher incomes, fining employers not offering health insurance, expanding Medicaid to more adults, and offering financial assistance to lower income people for purchasing coverage — range from a low of 55 percent to a high of 78 percent.

  • 78 percent agree with establishing a national, voluntary insurance program in which working adults can purchase insurance to help pay for long-term care services they might need in the future.
  • 74 percent agree with providing financial help to low and moderate income Americans who don’t get insurance though their jobs to help them purchase coverage.
  • 63 percent agree with expanding the existing Medicaid program to cover low-income, uninsured adults regardless of whether they have children.
  • 56 percent agree with increasing Medicare premiums for coverage of prescription drugs and doctor visits for people with higher incomes.
  • 55 percent agree, with the exception of small businesses, to fining employers if they don’t offer health insurance to their employees.
  • 49 percent agree with providing a bonus to physicians who provide primary care services to people on Medicare.
  • 20 percent agree with requiring nearly all Americans who do not have health insurance to pay a fine.

In addition to the health care reform law, pollsters surveyed residents on public policy issues that included the Alcohol Beverage Control system in North Carolina, video poker and video sweepstakes, charter schools, proposed voter identification legislation, abortion and same-sex marriage.

Alcohol Beverage Control System

When asked about North Carolina’s ABC system for alcohol management, distribution, and sales in the state, 29 percent of respondents believe the ABC system should be changed while 32 percent believe the system is fine the way it currently operates. Support for changing the current system has decreased since last spring, when 38 percent of respondents indicated they wanted to change the current system.

Who should control liquor sales:

  • State government: 40 percent
  • Private companies: 29 percent
  • Local governments: 24 percent

52 percent oppose making the ABC system the complete responsibility of the private sector; 37 percent support making it the complete responsibility of the private sector.

Video Poker & Sweepstakes Parlors

North Carolinians are reluctant to make video poker (44 percent oppose/38 percent support/17 percent don’t know) and video sweepstakes gaming (46 percent oppose/41 percent support/12 percent don’t know) available for play across the state.

More than half of North Carolinians – 52 percent – support making video poker and video sweepstakes legal if these are controlled and regulated by a state agency.

Charter Schools

Eighty percent of respondents support charter schools being able to operate in North Carolina. Support for charter schools has increased by more than 25 percentage points since last fall.

Although a sizable majority of North Carolinians support the operation of charter schools in North Carolina, they were more divided on the limit to the number of charter schools permitted in the state:

  • 43 percent think the state should adjust the current cap
  • 28 percent think the state should keep the current cap
  • 19 percent think the state should eliminate the current cap

Same-Sex Marriage

Fifty-six percent of respondents said they oppose a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Opposition to any legal recognition for same-sex couples has cooled, while support for full marriage rights has increased.

Oppose any legal recognition for same-sex couples:

  • February 2011: 35 percent
  • March 2009: 44 percent

Support civil unions or partnerships, but not full marriage rights: 

  • February 2011: 29 percent
  • March 2009: 28 percent

Support full marriage rights: 

  • February 2011: 28 percent
  • March 2009: 21 percent


The poll found that abortion remains a divisive issue among North Carolinians. Respondents were evenly split on their self-description as either “pro-life” (40 percent) or “pro-choice” (38 percent).

Forty-six percent preferred that laws in North Carolina make access to abortion more difficult, while 32 percent preferred laws in North Carolina that make access less difficult. Eleven percent indicated that they would like to keep abortion laws as they currently stand.

  • 43 percent agree that a woman should be able to get an abortion if she decides she wants one, no matter the reason.
  • 64 percent agree that abortion should only be legal in certain circumstances, such as when a women’s health is endangered, or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
  • 16 percent agree that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.

Voter Identification

A proposed voter identification law received high marks among North Carolinians, as more than three-quarters of citizens support legislation requiring photo identification before being allowed to vote. A similar number of citizens (78 percent) think this requirement will have no effect on their ability to vote in the state.