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Health Care Concerns Loom Large for Mississippi Voters as New Legislative Session Opens

Hyde-Smith Earns Lackluster Approval Ratings While Facing Likely US Senate Rematch; Voters Back Scrapping State's Electoral College Provision

Making health care more accessible and affordable in Mississippi has overtaken infrastructure repair and public school funding as the most important priority for Magnolia State voters. The Millsaps College/Chism Strategies State of the State Survey for January 2020 found that over 70% of voters are worried about being able to afford the cost of medical coverage for themselves and their families, including insurance and out-of-pocket expenses. Meanwhile, support for expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act has remained steady with 60% in support and 29% opposed.

United States Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith is seeking reelection this year to a full six-year term in Washington. Of the surveyed voters, 44% approve of her job performance in the Senate while 36% disapprove. A full 19% of the Mississippi electorate neither approves or disapproves of her performance with the election ten months away. According to our findings at this early stage, Hyde-Smith holds a nine-point lead over likely Democratic challenger Mike Espy with nearly 20% of the electorate undecided, including 34% of Independents and 30% of Republican Leaners.

"This quarter's State of the State Survey informs us that Mississippians are worried about the availability, accessibility, and affordability of health insurance and favor expanding Medicaid by a wide margin," said Dr. Nathan R. Shrader, chairman of the Department of Government and Politics and director of American Studies at Millsaps College. "One of the trends we see in this quarterly survey is that Mississippians—who are frequently seen as being politically divided— agree on several important policy questions. Aside from strongly supporting Medicaid expansion, 78% extend negative evaluations of the state's roads and bridges, 62% support amending the state's Jim Crow-era provisions for state elections in the Mississippi Constitution, and nearly 60% want to bring teacher salary and benefits up to the southeast regional average."

Looking at the views of Mississippians regarding national politics, a majority of voters (82%) say they are closely following the impeachment proceedings against President Donald J. Trump. 53% of Mississippi voters oppose the president's conviction and removal by the Senate while 42% are in favor. These numbers differ from recent national polls which find voters equally split regarding conviction and removal by the United States Senate.

Additional highlights from the 10th quarterly State of the State Survey:

  • 50% of voters believe the state is heading in the wrong direction, while 42% say it is heading in the right direction.
  • 44% disapprove of the job performance of the Mississippi Legislature, while 31% approve.
  • 56% favor adding some form of Medicare option to reduce the amount that families pay for their health insurance. Among these voters, 33% back allowing Americans to choose between a public option or private health insurance, while 23% favor replacing the current health care system by expanding Medicare to cover all American citizens. 36% say they instead want to reduce existing regulations in the insurance markets.
  • 55% support using public-private partnerships to fund infrastructure projects.
  • Although 78% say that the quality of the roads and bridges in Mississippi are only fair or poor, just 45% are willing to pay higher taxes, tolls, or fees to fund improvements.

"We invite the recently elected statewide officials and lawmakers to dig deeply into this report," said Brad Chism of Chism Strategies. "They will see how their constituents feel about a number of public policy options. And as always, we welcome the opportunity to work with the faculty at Millsaps to produce this scientific statewide survey of the Mississippi electorate."

The State of the State Survey involves a partnership between the Millsaps College Department of Government and Politics and Chism Strategies. The survey was conducted on January 3-7, 2020 with a sample size of 618, with 51% of interviews conducted via cell phone and 49% via landline. The survey has a Margin of Error of +/-3.94%. Results were weighted to reflect voter turnout for the 2020 Mississippi elections.

Read the full report here.

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