Date: 21 Dec 2013

“Simply un-American”: Nativism and Support for Health Care Reform

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Abstract

This study investigates the relationship between individual-level support for the 2010 Affordable Care Act and nativism, the perception that a traditional American culture and way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence. The results of an analysis of a 2011 public opinion survey demonstrate that nativism was an independent and significant predictor of opposition to health care reform and that this effect held for both Republicans as well as Democrats, although the relationship is stronger for Republicans. This is substantively important for two reasons. First, it demonstrates that certain sub-groups of the American public evaluate public policy proposals on the basis of their perceived “foreignness.” Second, it demonstrates that while nativism is traditionally associated with immigration and other race/ethnic-based policy preferences, it also affects attitudes toward other seemingly race-neutral policies in the United States.

A previous version of this article was prepared for presentation at the 2012 American Political Science Association Conference. We are also indebted to Nicholas Martini, Jason Ambrosius, Daniel Bowen, Fred Boehmke, and Jennifer Mansfield for their very helpful comments and suggestions.