Most Floridians support Medicaid expansion, Obamacare not so much

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Medicaid expansion in Florida, as part of the Affordable Care Act, is popular with voters in the state, even though the ACA itself does not get as much support, according new polling by the University of Florida.

The Bob Graham Center for Public Service, with the UF Bureau of Economic and Business Research, surveyed Florida registered voters on state legislative issues coming in the 2014 legislative session, beginning next week.

Pollsters found that 67 percent of respondents support expanding Florida’s Medicaid program while 28 percent oppose expansion, reports UF reporter Shelby Taylor.

As for the Affordable Care Act, when asked, support was significantly weaker: 38 percent of respondents want Obamacare repealed, and 29 percent say the law needs significant changes; 27 percent support only minor changes and 12 percent say the ACA should remain intact.

 “These apparently contradictory findings are understandable,” said UF Graduate School associate dean Paul Duncan, a professor in the College of Public Health and Health Professions. “The Affordable Care Act is large and complicated — just like our health care system — so when an unprecedented level of partisan political noise is added, inconsistency in public opinion is almost certain.”

Opinions on other weighty issues facing Florida Legislature in 2014 include allowing in-state tuition for undocumented students, with a majority (62 percent) supporting the proposal and 33 percent oppose.

One-half (50 percent) of respondents approve of requiring online retailers to pay Florida sales taxes while 43 percent oppose.

More than half (53 percent) of Floridians do not want the state to allow Las Vegas-style gambling casinos in the state; only 45 percent approve.

“The views of Floridians appear to be evolving significantly as the economy recovers, the jobs environment improves, daily life becomes less of a grind, and the future seems to hold greater promise,” said historian David Colburn, a director of the Bob Graham Center.

Public education is the top priority for respondents when asked about how to spend the state’s projected budget surplus.

Forty-two percent of those polled put increased pre-kindergarten through 12th grade funding at the top of the “wish list.” Protecting Florida’s springs, rivers and lakes (as well as the Everglades) came in second with 20 percent, and only 14 percent favor using it for expanding Medicaid funding.

 “Everyone agrees that good teachers are crucial for successful preK-12 education, yet adjusted for inflation the average pay for Florida’s teachers is down eight percent from 10 years ago,” said economist David Denslow. “That Floridians favor more funding for education bodes well for reversing that trend.”

The survey, conducted Jan. 27 through Feb. 1, called on 1,006 phone interviews of registered voters. The poll has a +/- 3 percent margin of error. Methodology, topline and graphs are online at the Bob Graham Center website.   

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.