Partisan differences in the link between nativism and opposition to health care reform

Last summer I posted a bunch of evidence suggesting that nativism, the  opinion that a traditional American culture and way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence, is associated with higher levels of opposition to the ACA health care reform law. (See the whole post for a detailed recap.) My big research project here at Centre College over the summer (thank you FDC funding and Jordan, my research assistant!) is to polish it all up for a paper that I’ll be presenting at the American Political Science Association conference this September in New Orleans. 

Here is my novel addition to the analysis this summer:

This is based on an analysis of the 2011 Pew Political Typology Survey (N= more or less 1,500). The vertical axis is how likely one is to disapprove of the ACA health care reform bill on a 0-1 scale. The horizontal axis is the person’s level of nativism.

The interesting finding is that nativism is associated with less favorable views toward the ACA among Democrats as well as Republicans. However, the effect is three times as strong for Republicans than it is for Democrats.

Why is this the case? From 2009 to present we’ve had lots of Republican elected officials calling health care reform “un-American.” Apparently it made a difference! Those who are worried about “un-American” influence on our culture are more likely to oppose health care reform as a result. And since it’s generally only Republican politicians making that claim, it affects Republican partisans in the public at a much higher rate than Democrats.

Also, when there are many Americans who think that the chief advocate of health care reform (the president) is himself a foreigner (i.e. birth certificate conspiracy theory), they begin to associate the policies he supports as “foreign” as well.

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