03/24/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What Do Mass Voters Really Think About Health Care Reform?

The Republican-leaning Rasmussen poll has been the most quoted exit polling data from Tuesday's election. It showed 56 percent of voters called health care their top issue -- an "astonishing" level, according to conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer in this morning's Washington Post.

What he forgot to tell readers is that 53 percent of those voters backed Martha Coakley. As Scott Rasmussen himself told Inside Politics Daily columnist Jill Lawrence:

There are people out there who really dislike it, and saw him as a vehicle to get that 41st vote (to block it). But among the people who said health care was their top issue, Coakley won. So clearly that wasn't enough to get him over the top.

That jibes with results of a Harvard School of Public Health/Boston Globe survey that was released last September. That survey found that Massachusetts voters backed their reform law by a two-to-one margin, with only slight slippage from an earlier poll. The Harvard poll also contradicted previous Rasmussen polls (not exit polls) that showed lukewarm support for reform in Massachusetts, with around a third of voters in favor, a third opposed, and a third not sure.

Another poll worth noting: Union households broke narrowly in favor of Brown, 49% to 46%, according to an AFL-CIO survey reported in the Wall Street Journal. Concerns about higher taxes were a major factor. One has to wonder if all the discussion around the misnamed Cadillac tax in the final bill -- even with a union carve out -- didn't influence some union voters.

Meanwhile, 70 percent of physicians in the Bay State before the election backed the local reform, according to this October poll published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Those well-educated voters no doubt contributed to exit polls showing college-educated voters backed Coakley by 5 points, while non-college educated voters backed Brown by 20 points.

Inside Politics Daily's Lawrence concludes that Brown's victory came from areas other than health care. He narrowly beat Coakley on the economy, which 25 percent of voters said was their top issue. And he won handily among the 10 percent of voters who said taxes and national security were their top issues.