TITLE: Making Health Policy at the Ballot Box: Public Attitudes Toward Five Health Propositions and the Future of Health Policy

AUTHORS: Kristy Michaud, Renatta DeFever, Jonathan Cohen, and Mark Baldassare

PAGES: 23      DATE: May 2005

ABSTRACT: In November 2004, California’s ballot included four citizens’ initiatives and one referendum that focused directly on major health policy issues: employer mandates for health coverage, children’s hospitals, emergency medicine, mental health, and stem cell research. An election with this large number of diverse health policy measures provided researchers a unique opportunity to assess the underlying political, social, and economic attitudes that might be shaping Californians’ interest in making public policy decisions at the ballot box. It also provided the opportunity to explore attitudes related to the specific health policy decisions required by the measures on this ballot. In this paper, we report the results of an RDD survey of 2,500 California voters, conducted in five languages (English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese). The paper examines California voters’ overall attitudes towards making health policy at the ballot box, their specific opinions and experiences involving the five state propositions, and their perceptions of the health care system and preferences for future health policies in the wake of the general election. Overall, these data confirm previous trends in Californians’ strong commitment to the initiative process, in this instance, in the health policy area, and their overall satisfaction with making choices on the five ballot measures. Still, many voters say that they did not expect the election outcomes to have much effect. The findings indicate continuing concerns about the availability of health coverage and deep partisan divisions when looking at health policy options for the future.

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