How Race Affects Opinions On Health Care Overhaul

Racial attitudes and health care policy are two seemingly unrelated topics, right? Not necessarily.

Opinions of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul are sharply divided among whites with conservative versus liberal racial attitudes, according to researcher and Brown University political science professor Michael Tesler.

Tesler’s study appears in the American Journal of Political Science. It’s part of a larger research project examining how identity issues such as race and religion affect public opinions on a range of political topics, such as war and crime, reports NPR’s Shots blog.

Another thing to keep in mind: many Americans without insurance are unaware of the specific provisions in the health care overhaul bill that could directly impact them, such as low- and middle-class tax credits. But that may simply be because such intended benefits haven’t been enacted yet, so the law is still not tangible — particularly for struggling Americans too busy with making ends meet to make time to read long and complex policies.

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.

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