Science and Technology Innovation Program

The Future of Health Care and the Independent Vote

Oct 01, 2013

Much like the general public, players of Budget Hero are split in their support for the Affordable Care Act, though two years of data from the game suggests many independents are choosing not to repeal the landmark health law and would even support including a government-run option.  

Budget Hero, the national budget game, allows players to make decisions about how to boost and cut federal spending across a wide range of issues. Looking at gameplay between Aug. 1 2011 and Aug. 21, 2013, our analysis found players identifying as Republican were overwhelmingly more likely than Democrats to play a card repealing the health reform law known as Obamacare. Most surprisingly, political independents appeared slightly less likely to repeal the law.  

The long-term Budget Hero trends mirror the split seen in polls taken in the heat of the government shutdown fight. A Quinnipiac poll released Oct. 1 finds a similar split between U.S. voters on Obamacare, with 45 percent in favor of the law and 47 percent opposed, according to Politico’s Playbook.

Budget Hero players can also add a public option to the health care law, which would create an alternative, government-run health program to compete with privately run plans, though this debate has taken a backseat to the fight over implementation of the existing law.

Not surprisingly, the analysis found that players identifying as Democrats and Greens were 450 percent more likely than Republicans and Libertarians to play the card. But support for the public option was also high among independents: Players identifying as independent were 248 percent more likely than Republicans and Libertarians to play the card.

Budget Hero: Sequestration Edition was released in late August by American Public Media and the Wilson Center. The new version allows players to roll back the sequestration cuts, which are far-reaching discretionary and defense spending reductions enacted earlier this year, and make key decisions on U.S. immigration policy and Medicaid funding for the states. The game also includes updated costs projections from the Congressional Budget Office.

This is the fifth version of Budget Hero, which first launched in 2008 and has been played more than 1.7 million times.

Experts & Staff

  • David Rejeski // Director, Science and Technology Innovation Program; Interim Director, Commons Lab
  • Todd Kuiken, Ph.D. // Senior Program Associate, Science and Technology Innovation Program
  • Aaron Lovell // Writer/Editor/Program Manager, Science and Technology Innovation Program
  • Eleonore Pauwels // Program Associate/Researcher, Science and Technology Innovation Program
  • Anne Bowser // Researcher, Data Science and Visualization, Science and Technology Innovation Program
  • Elizabeth Tyson // New Projects/Technology Scout, Science and Technology Innovation Program
  • Sharon Weinberger // Global Fellow
  • Piers Millett // Global Fellow