Americans Running Out of Patience on Health Care, Polls Show

A recent CBS News/New York Times Poll, conducted February 5-10, finds that Americans may be running out of patience when it comes to reforming health care – a sentiment President Obama hopes to change with a bipartisan health care summit on Thursday.

The poll, taken before the president unveiled his health care proposal earlier this week, gives the president his lowest marks on handling health care to date. Nearly half (48 percent) of Americans say he has spent too much time on the issue, and increased economic concerns have led to a majority (53 percent) that now say the U.S. cannot afford to fix health care at this time.

623893Mr. Obama has received lukewarm ratings on his handling of health care since CBS News began asking the question last summer. 55 percent now disapprove of his job on the issue, while only 35 percent approve. Even the president's highest approval rating on health care – 49 percent - was short of a majority.

While Mr. Obama's ratings on health care are low, a CBS News Poll conducted last month found that the approval ratings of Congressional Democrats and Republicans on the issue are even lower, just 29 percent and 24 percent respectively.

623880This dismal performance of Congress on health care may explain why the president isn't the only one being blamed for the stalled health care legislation. Fifty-six percent think the president and Congress are equally responsible for the difficulties in passing health care reform, according to the latest CBS News/New York Times Poll. Another 37 percent solely blame Congress.

Despite the president's low ratings on health care, a recent Newsweek Poll, conducted February 17-18, 2010, found public support for some of the initiatives in the president's proposal that was announced on Monday: Creation of insurance exchanges (81 percent), requiring health insurance companies to cover those with a pre-existing medical condition (76 percent), and subsidies for those who can't afford coverage (59 percent).

Still, the poll finds little support for other ideas like taxing high-end health insurance plans - commonly referred to as Cadillac plans (34 percent)- and imposing fines on individuals who do not obtain coverage and larger business that don't offer it (28 percent).

One problem for the president is that, so far, he has been unable to convince Americans that they will benefit from health care reforms. CBS News Polls conducted throughout the health care debate have found that only about one in five Americans think health care reform will benefit them personally.

While bipartisanship may be the aim of the health care summit, CBS News polling shows sharp partisan divides.

In the latest CBS News/New York Times Poll, the president receives a 66 percent approval rating on health care from members of his own party, but 83 percent of Republicans disapprove of the job he is doing. Independents were initially divided on Mr. Obama's handling of health care, but 60 percent now disapprove.

Most Republicans (72 percent) also think Mr. Obama has spent too much time on health care, but 54 percent of Democrats think the president has spent the right amount of time trying to change the health care system.

Sixty-five percent of Democrats think fixing the health care system is integral to improving the economy – an assertion made by the president. But most Republicans (63 percent) disagree and say the country can't afford to fix health care now.

As for whether health care legislation will ever become law, 54 percent of Americans think it is likely, but only 16 percent think say is very likely. Nearly seven in 10 Democrats think the passage of health care reform is likely, while 55 percent of Republicans think it is not.

More Coverage of the Health Care Summit:

Washington Unplugged: Health Care Summit Smoke and Mirrors?
GOP Disses Health Care Summit, But Asks for More Invites
Advice for the Health Care Summit from Two Presidents Named George
GOP Prepares Strategy for Health Care Summit
Obama's Health Care Plan at a Glance
A War of Words Before the Health Care Summit
Obama's Health Care Plan Unveiled
Harry Reid Says GOP Should "Stop Crying" About Reconciliation
CBSNews.com Special Report: Health Care



Jennifer De Pinto is manager of election and survey information for CBS News. 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.

  • Jennifer Pinto

Comments