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Polling on health care: Americans closely divided, support increases when they find out what’s in the bill

The polling on health reform has long been scattered and misunderstood. The issue is so complex that it’s very hard to boil down into a few yes or no questions. And because the issue is so hot, every pollster and their mother wants to grab a headline with new poll results.

There are a few things that can be teased out, however. First, for the most part, people like what’s in the health care bills.

Poll after poll finds support for banning denial of care based on pre-existing conditions, creating the Exchanges as a marketplace for health care, requiring business to pitch in for health care costs with tax credits to small business, closing the Medicare donut hole, and helping people afford insurance.

Kaiser’s February tracking poll [pdf] illustrates the findings:

Newsweek’s latest poll, taken in mid-February, backs up the assertion that people like the main components of the health care bill. Of course, some things aren’t as popular – an individual mandate without a public option or the excise tax, for example – but Newsweek’s poll has another finding that is noteworthy.

Second, when people find out what’s in the bill, support for it rises. Newsweek’s latest poll in mid-February found that while initial support for "Obama’s health reform plan" were 40% favor to 49% opposed, once people learn what’s in the bill – both the good and the bad – 48% support and 43% oppose. Kaiser tracking polls, among others, have had similar findings.

Third, people want to see reform passed more than they want Congress to fail or "start over."

Again, Kaiser has clear data on this point:

Recent polling by Franklin and Marshall [pdf] and ABC/Washington Post back up the point.

And finally, the public is closely divided on the question of whether they support or oppose the current health care plan, and support is rising. Via Pollster’s average of health care polls:

It’s also worth noting that a significant portion of the opposition, anywhere from 10% to 30% depending on which poll you cite, is because health reform "doesn’t go far enough," not that it goes "too far."

There’s no question that Congress and the President can and should do things to make these bills more popular. The fixes coming to an up-or-down vote in the Senate that will fully close the donut hole and scale back the excise tax is a start. But there are a lot of myths about health reform’s popularity, especially right now, that are worth putting to rest.


(also posted at the NOW! blog)

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Polling on health care: Americans closely divided, support increases when they find out what’s in the bill

The polling on health reform has long been scattered and misunderstood. The issue is so complex that it’s very hard to boil down into a few yes or no questions. And because the issue is so hot, every pollster and their mother wants to grab a headline with new poll results.

There are a few things that can be teased out, however. First, for the most part, people like what’s in the health care bills.

Poll after poll finds support for banning denial of care based on pre-existing conditions, creating the Exchanges as a marketplace for health care, requiring business to pitch in for health care costs with tax credits to small business, closing the Medicare donut hole, and helping people afford insurance.

Kaiser’s February tracking poll [pdf] illustrates the findings:

Newsweek’s latest poll, taken in mid-February, backs up the assertion that people like the main components of the health care bill. Of course, some things aren’t as popular – an individual mandate without a public option or the excise tax, for example – but Newsweek’s poll has another finding that is noteworthy.

Second, when people find out what’s in the bill, support for it rises. Newsweek’s latest poll in mid-February found that while initial support for "Obama’s health reform plan" were 40% favor to 49% opposed, once people learn what’s in the bill – both the good and the bad – 48% support and 43% oppose. Kaiser tracking polls, among others, have had similar findings.
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Jason Rosenbaum

Jason Rosenbaum

Writer, musician, activist. Currently consulting for Bill Halter for U.S. Senate and a fellow at the New Organizing Institute.

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