PRINCETON, NJ -- As President Obama begins a final push on healthcare reform, slightly more Americans say they would advise their member of Congress to vote against rather than for a healthcare reform bill similar to the one the president has proposed.
These results, based on a new Gallup poll conducted March 4-7, confirm the generally divided nature of public opinion on healthcare legislation that Gallup has found in recent months. The high point in public support was 51% in October.
"Supporters of healthcare legislation commonly cite a moral imperative as a reason for their support."
President Obama has called for a final up-or-down vote on healthcare legislation, which has dominated the domestic agenda for much of his presidency. Most of the Republican leadership in Congress would prefer that Congress begin work on a new bill rather than try to pass Obama's proposal, which is based largely on a bill the Senate passed last year with no Republican support.
The poll finds that Americans who oppose passing a healthcare bill like the one Obama has proposed do so more because they disagree with that specific approach, rather than the efforts to reform healthcare more generally. Sixty-two percent of Americans who oppose the bill would prefer that Congress start over on new legislation, while 37% say Congress should not work on healthcare legislation at this time.
Reasons Behind Support or Opposition
The poll sought to assess why Americans support or oppose healthcare legislation similar to President Obama's by asking them to say in their own words why they hold the position they do. The actual verbatim responses for all poll respondents are shown here, allowing the interested reader to review in detail the actual words Americans use to discuss their positions on healthcare reform.
Supporters of healthcare legislation commonly cite a moral imperative as a reason for their support. The most frequent specific response -- mentioned by 29% of supporters -- is that people need health insurance and there are too many without it. Another 12% specifically cite a moral obligation to provide it. An additional 4% say it would help senior citizens and 3% say it would help the poor.
Beyond moral concerns, 18% of supporters say more generally that the healthcare system is broken and in need of repair. About one in five cite cost or affordability, including 12% who say costs are out of control and 10% who believe the legislation would make healthcare more affordable.
These views have not changed greatly since September, when Gallup last asked Americans to say why they supported healthcare legislation. At that time, slightly more said there were too many uninsured and slightly fewer cited a moral obligation to provide health insurance.
There has been greater change in opponents' stated reasons for wanting to defeat the president's proposed healthcare legislation. Now, 20% of opponents say it will raise insurance costs, up from 9% in September. Nineteen percent currently believe the legislation will not address the real problems in the system, up from 10% in September.
Fewer Americans today than last fall cite a lack of information about the details of the legislation or cite general concerns about "big government."
Despite the drop in the percentage mentioning big government specifically, concerns about expanding government power are a common theme in opponents' responses. The cost of the legislation is another prominent theme. Two specific flash points concerning the reform efforts -- that Democrats are rushing the legislation through the process and that federal funds would be used to pay for abortions -- are each mentioned by a relatively small percentage of opponents in the poll.
The president and Democratic leaders in Congress are trying to pass healthcare legislation in the coming weeks, and if they succeed, they will likely do so by a slim margin in the House and possibly the Senate. In some ways, this corresponds to Americans' division over the legislation, though Gallup currently finds slightly more Americans wanting their member of Congress to vote against rather than for a reform bill similar to the one Obama has proposed.
Over time, healthcare reform opponents have increasingly come to doubt whether the legislation Congress is considering will control costs and really fix the problems that plague the healthcare system. Supporters are more hopeful that it will make insurance more affordable, but much of their support rides on their belief that all Americans should have insurance.
Results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,014 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 4-7, 2010. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
For results based on the 436 Americans who would advise their member of Congress to vote for a healthcare reform bill similar to the one proposed by President Obama, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
For results based on the 513 Americans who would advise their member of Congress to vote against a healthcare reform bill similar to the one proposed by President Obama, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline 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.