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Seniors Most Skeptical of Healthcare Reform

Seniors Most Skeptical of Healthcare Reform

More seniors think reform law would be harmful, not beneficial, to them

PRINCETON, NJ -- Seniors are the least likely of all age groups in the U.S. to say that healthcare reform will benefit their personal healthcare situation. By a margin of three to one, 36% to 12%, adults 65 and older are more likely to believe healthcare reform will reduce rather than expand their access to healthcare. And by 39% to 20%, they are more likely to say their own medical care will worsen rather than improve.



The responses of all Americans to these questions, part of July 24-25 Gallup Poll Daily tracking, were first reported on Wednesday.

In contrast to seniors, adults 18 to 49 are about evenly divided in their expectations for how healthcare reform will affect their own medical care and access. The middle age group, those ages 50 to 64, tend to be more dubious than younger adults that they will personally benefit from either aspect of healthcare reform, but they are not as skeptical as seniors.

According to recent Gallup analysis, the overwhelming majority of seniors have health insurance coverage, and roughly three-quarters of those 65 and older are covered by a government-sponsored plan, such as Medicare or Medicaid. Thus it might be expected that seniors would be more negative about the potential impact of reform on their personal situations, but perhaps more positive about its impact on others. This is not the case.

In addition to being less likely to believe healthcare reform will improve their own medical care and access, seniors are far less likely than younger adults to believe the country as a whole will benefit. Only a quarter of seniors, versus about half of those 18 to 49 and 50 to 64 years, believe a reform law would expand access to healthcare nationally.


Similarly, only about a third of seniors, compared with close to half of younger adults, believe reform would improve medical care in the U.S.


The three age groups have similar predictions for the cost implications of healthcare reform. About a third of adults in each age group predict their own healthcare costs would go up under healthcare reform, while less than one quarter believe costs would go down.


Also, seniors, as well as younger Americans, tend to believe healthcare reform would increase rather than decrease healthcare costs in the country as a whole.


Obama Approval Drops Below 50% Among Seniors

Obama's job approval rating from Americans fell to 52% in July 27-29 Gallup Poll Daily tracking, its lowest reading to date. In the same poll, his rating from seniors is 49%, down from an average 54% throughout June and from 61% at the start of his administration in January.

Despite the greater concern about healthcare reform among seniors, at the moment they are not significantly more critical of the job Obama is doing than are middle-aged adults -- although they were earlier this year. Roughly half of those 30 to 49 and 50 to 64 years approve of Obama's overall job performance. Also, since June, Obama's approval rating has dropped by five percentage points among seniors, but by nine points among adults 30 to 40 years and 50 to 64 years, and by 13 points among adults 18 to 29 years.


Bottom Line

Gallup surveys suggest seniors are the most resistant of all age groups to Obama's healthcare reform initiative. While a fairly large subset of seniors think healthcare reform will have no effect on their medical care or access to healthcare, the remaining are much more negative than positive about the potential impact. And while seniors have typically lagged behind younger Americans in their approval of the job Obama is doing as president, their support has now dropped below the symbolically important 50% mark.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 2,017 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 24-25, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 485 national adults in the Form A/C half-sample, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points. For results based on the sample of 559 national adults in the Form A/D half-sample, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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