The absence of election-night exit polls allowed commentators to argue that the Massachusetts election was a referendum on Democrats’ health care reform bills, but a new Washington Post/Kaiser/Harvard poll undermines this conventional wisdom. Voters elected Senator-elect Scott Brown (R-MA) to protest the Washington process and hoped that their new Senator would work with Democrats on a health care bill. The electorate rejected the process of securing a large health care package, not the policy of reform. Voters asked for more cooperation between the parties; they did not vote to abandon progressive prescriptions for the Republican alternative or ask the Democrats to separate their comprehensive health care bills into a thousand little pieces.
Only 11% of voters, including 19% of Brown voters, want Brown to “stop the Democratic agenda“:
- 70% of voters think Brown should work with Democrats on health care reform, including 48% of Brown voters.
- 52% of voters were enthusiastic/satisfied with Obama administration policies.
- 44% of voters believe “the country as a whole” would be better off with health care reform, but 23% believe Massachusetts would be better off.
- 68% of voters, including 51% of Brown voters approve of Massachusetts’ health care reform.
Fifty-eight percent of all voters, including 37% of Brown voters, felt “dissatisfied/angry” with “the policies offered by the Republicans in Congress,” while opposition to progressive health care policies had a low impact on the electorate:
Some Democrats have always questioned the President’s health care reform agenda and many are now using the Massachusetts result to argue that pursuing the effort would result in a popular backlash and electoral catastrophe. But this poll suggests that voters would be more frustrated if Congress simply abandoned the effort. After all, frustration with the politics of reform is not an endorsement of inaction and the status quo.