NASHVILLE (AP) – A majority of Tennesseans – including nearly three-quarters of those identifying themselves as Republicans – prefer a state-run health insurance exchange over one run by the federal government, according to a poll released by Vanderbilt University on Wednesday.
The poll of 829 registered voters showed 53 percent favor the state-run marketplace, while 33 percent prefer the federal approach. Seventy-two percent of Republicans surveyed said they support the state-based approach to the exchanges required under the federal health care law, compared with 31 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independents.
The poll results contrast with Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's decision earlier this week not to pursue a state-run exchange. States can't opt out of the insurance exchanges, they can only decide whether to run them themselves, defer to the federal government or create a hybrid of the two.
Vanderbilt officials said the governor was not aware of the poll results before Wednesday's release. Haslam's office did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
The governor on Monday cited a lack of flexibility for the state along with a dearth of details from the federal government in deciding against creating a state-based exchange. He had long acknowledged that getting the GOP-controlled Legislature to approve it would have been an uphill battle, but denied that political considerations had entered into the decision.
Meanwhile, a pending decision over whether to expand Medicaid was much more evenly divided among poll respondents: 47 percent said they support an expansion, while 46 oppose it. Haslam has said he would decide the Medicaid issue sometime in the spring, though expansion would also face a chilly reception in the Legislature.
Vanderbilt political science professors John Geer and Joshua Clinton, who co-directed the poll, said parts of the survey reflect the difficulty in asking about highly politicized issues. For example, Clinton said a question about the Affordable Care Act found that nearly three out of five people said they didn't know enough about it to have an opinion.
"If you asked, 'What do you think about Obamacare?' for example, we would have gotten much different answers," he said. "So how do you ask that question in a non-ideological, nonpartisan way?"
Seventy-three percent agreed with a provision of the health care law that allows children to stay on their parents' health insurance until they turn 26 years old, but only about 40 percent approve covering people with pre-existing conditions. Only 35 percent said they would support raising the eligibility age for Medicare as a way to reduce the federal deficit.
Here are some poll results on other issues facing lawmakers as they plan to return into session next month:
– Judicial Selection: Forty-four percent said voters should elect state Supreme Court justices, while 28 percent the governor should continue to appoint them.
– Guns in parking lots: Fifty-three percent said employers should be required to allow workers to store guns in vehicles parked in company lots, while 44 percent said businesses shouldn't be forced to allow firearms on their property.
– Charter schools: Sixty-five percent said they support opening additional charter schools.
– Energy: Forty-seven percent said they favor nuclear power, while 15 percent are opposed. Sixty-one percent said they favor wind power, while 12 percent oppose.
The poll conducted on landlines and cellphones between Nov. 7 and Dec. 9 had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.
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