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Poll shows support slipping for Medicaid expansion

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By Landmark News Service

RICHMOND — State legislative Republicans opposed to Medicaid expansion appear to have public opinion on their side: A new poll says a majority of Virginians are against extending government-backed health insurance to low-income residents.
A recent Christopher Newport University survey says 53 percent of Virginians oppose expansion and 41 percent support the position favored by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe and his General Assembly allies.
That’s a sharp change from a January poll also conducted by CNU’s Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy, which found expansion supporters in the majority, 56 percent to 38 percent.
“Democrats are losing the debate on expanding Medicaid,” CNU poll director and professor Quentin Kidd said, an outcome he attributes to their failure to convince independents “that it’s a good idea.”
That, the unpopularity of President Barack Obama and views of his Affordable Care Act, and effective GOP messaging might all contribute to what seems to be a shift in public perception. The shift could also be due to differences between the CNU polls: The 1,023 voters interviewed for the January survey was a larger sample than the 806 polled April 16-22.
Other differences: The share of self-identified Democrats was larger in January, while the number who described themselves as Tea Party supporters was greater in the new poll.
Another contrast was how the Medicaid questions were framed. The January poll separately sampled respondents’ attitudes on expanding health insurance to 400,000 “mostly working poor” Virginians, and doing so if the federal government failed to cover the freight as promised. April’s poll combined those concepts and the notion of excessive program “waste and abuse” into one question.
An overwhelming majority of those polled, 71 percent, want both sides to compromise on Medicaid.
Three months into his term, McAuliffe scored better job approval ratings than did the legislature. Some 44 percent approve of how the governor is handling his job compared with 32 percent who disagree and 24 percent who didn’t give a clear response.
The General Assembly fared worse: 33 percent approve of its performance and 41 percent don’t.
The margin of error on the new poll is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.