Daniel J. Mitchell

I like to think people in the United States still believe in liberty, and I’ve cited some polling data in support of American Exceptionalism.

And it seems like that philosophical belief in individualism and limited government sometimes has an impact in the polling booth. According to a recent study, Obamacare was poison for Democrats in 2010.

Here’s an excerpt from a report in The Hill.

Voting for President Obama’s healthcare reform law cost Democratic incumbents 5.8 percentage points of support at the polls in 2010, according to a new study in the journal American Politics Research. The study helps explain why Democrats lost 66 House seats, significantly more than the median academic forecast of 44 to 45 seats, study co-author Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth College writes on his blog. Democrats in the lead-up to the elections took a number of tough votes — notably on the Wall Street bailout, the stimulus and cap-and-trade — but none was as unpopular as their support for the healthcare reform law. “We show that the roll-call effect on vote share was driven by healthcare reform. Democratic incumbents who voted yes performed significantly worse than those who did not,” Nyhan writes. “We then provide simulation evidence suggesting that Democrats would win approximately 25 more seats if those in competitive districts had voted no, which accounts for the gap between the academic forecasts and the observed outcomes.”

As with any statistical study, you should take the results with a big grain of salt. That caveat aside, the conclusions of the study seem quite plausible. And since I’m not a fan of Obamacare and think the law will be much more costly than advertised, I’m not shedding any tears for politicians who lost their jobs after voting for the new entitlement.

But the 2010 election may have been a Pyrrhic victory – a short-run victory that paves the way for long-run defeat.


Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy at the Cato Institute.
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