5192097President Barack Obama would like to make bipartisanship in Washington a central element of his presidency -- but when it comes to health care reform, Americans themselves have yet to reach much bipartisan consensus.
The latest CBS News/New York Times Poll reveals large partisan divides on some central questions in the current health care reform debate.
Democrats and Republicans don't share the same health care priorities: 70 percent of Republicans think keeping health care costs down is more important, while 71 percent of Democrats think covering the uninsured is the higher priority.
Importantly, the two sides disagree about the role government should play in providing health care. Just 31 percent of Republicans think the government should guarantee health insurance for all Americans, compared to 76 percent of Democrats. And only 38 percent of Republicans think Americans should be required to have health insurance -- but 71 percent of Democrats take that view.
There is also disagreement as to whether it is possible to provide health care coverage for most Americans without increasing the federal budget deficit – 63 percent of Republicans think that is not possible, but 51 percent of Democrats think it is.
Most Republicans think any savings realized from health care reform would not cover the costs of enacting reform, while most Democrats think those savings would do so.
The two sides even disagree on the timing of reform. A majority of Republicans (55 percent) think that given the state of the economy, the U.S. cannot afford to tackle health care now, while 64 percent of Democrats view fixing the health care system as an important part of solving the country's economic problems.
HEALTH CARE REFORM: WHERE THEY DIFFER
| ||REPUBLICANS ||DEMOCRATS |
|Keeping costs down is more important ||70% ||26% |
|Covering uninsured is more important ||26% ||71% |
|Government should guarantee health insurance ||31% ||76% |
|Government should not guarantee insurance ||59% ||19% |
|Government should require all to be insured ||38% ||71% |
|Governemnt should not require insurance ||55% ||27% |
|Possible to reform health care without raising deficit ||34% ||57% |
|Not possible ||63% ||43% |
|Because of economy, cannot afford reform now ||39% ||64% |
|To fix economy, must reform health care now ||55% ||35% |
Partisan disagreement on health care is not new. In 1993, when health care reform was last seriously proposed, there was less disagreement in some areas.
Fewer Republicans than Democrats supported a government role in providing health care, but support among Republicans was higher in 1993 than it is now. In a September 1993 CBS News/New York Times Poll, 52 percent of Republicans thought government should guarantee medical care for everyone without insurance, as did 73 percent of Democrats.
But even then, there was partisan disagreement: according to a February 1994 CBS News/New York Times Poll, most Republicans (60 percent) felt the health care reform plan proposed by President Bill Clinton was unfair to them, while most Democrats saw it as fair (51 percent). Republicans saw the reform bill as making health care in the U.S. worse, while more Democrats saw it as an improvement.
But there are some areas in which many on both sides of the aisle currently do
agree. In the latest poll, majorities see the health care system in the U.S. as needing major overhaul: 70 percent of Republicans and 93 percent of Democrats think the health care system needs fundamental changes or to be completely rebuilt (although more Democrats than Republicans see the need to completely rebuild it).
Majorities of Republicans and Democrats also agree that health insurance companies should be required to cover anyone who applies, regardless of whether they have a pre-existing condition (more Democrats than Republicans take this view too).
Most Republicans and Democrats think rising health care costs pose a serious threat to the country's economy, and majorities think that the legislation under consideration in Congress would raise the cost of health care for most Americans.
HEALTH CARE REFORM: WHERE THEY AGREE
| ||REPUBLICANS ||DEMOCRATS |
|U.S. health care system needs: || || |
|Minor changes ||28% ||6% |
|Fundamental changes ||55% ||51% |
|To be rebuilt ||15% ||42% |
|Require insurance companies to cover anyone ||62% ||90% |
|Rising costs pose serious threat to economy ||72% ||80% |
|Current legislation would increase costs for most Americans ||71% ||55% |
|Democrats should pass bill with Republicans ||82% ||72% |
Large percentages on both sides of the partisan divide would like to see Congress try to pass a bipartisan health care reform bill – 82 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of Democrats. But the differences in how each side defines reform, particularly the role of government in health care, could pose a threat to a bipartisan solution. Sarah Dutton is the CBS News director of surveys. Poll Positions is weekly Hotsheet feature on polling trends from the CBS News Survey and Polling Unit. Click here for more posts from the series.