Poll: Congress Gets Low Health Care Grade
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Many say the health care debate has been more negative compared to debates on other major issues. In addition, Americans think the Republicans in Congress are not serious about reform -- and a majority would be disappointed if reform doesn't occur.
While 47 percent of Americans approve of how President Obama is handling health care, 42 percent disapprove. The president received similar ratings in a CBS/New York Times poll two weeks ago. The president's overall job approval rating is 56 percent in this poll, the same as it was in late September.
While public assessments of Mr. Obama on this issue are mixed, they are considerably better than the ratings of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Solid majorities of Americans disapprove of the way the Democrats (60 percent) and Republicans (67 percent) are handling health care.
In addition, Congress' overall job rating remains low. Only 22 percent of Americans approve, while 65 percent disapprove.
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Health Care Progress Report: October 5
Views of the national economy also remain negative. Americans' outlook for their local economy and their family's finances are especially pessimistic.
Although the American public disapproves of both parties' handling of health care, they do see differences when it comes to the each party's approach to the issue. Just over half, 52 percent, think the Democrats are really serious about reforming the nation's heath care system, compared to 69 percent who think the Republicans are not serious about reform.
Views of the Republicans in Congress are even more negative than they were when this question was asked in 1994, during the debate over then-President Bill Clinton's health care reform proposals. In 1994, 38 percent thought Republicans in Congress were seriously trying to reform health care, and 53 percent thought they were not.
Many see the current debate as less civil than earlier confrontations. Compared to past debates on major issues, 45 percent of Americans view the current debate on health care as more negative -- four times as many as say it has been more positive (11 percent). Thirty-six percent say the debate is similar in tone to past debates on major issues.
Despite the alarms raised by some Republicans about the impact health care reform could have on Medicare recipients, Americans give Democrats the edge (42 percent) over the Republicans (31 percent) when it comes to caring for senior citizens. Among those ages 65 and over, more say the Democratic Party cares more about them when it comes to health care.
Half of Americans think it is likely that a health care reform bill will pass by the end of year, but only 14 percent think it is very likely to happen. People were a bit more likely to think reform would pass back in July.
Most Americans (61 percent) would be disappointed if Congress doesn't pass health care reform this year and the system continues as it is. Less than a third would be pleased if reforms do not pass.
There's a partisan divide on this question: most Democrats would be disappointed if reform does not pass, while most Republicans would be pleased. Independents sided left on the question, with 60 percent saying they would be disappointed.
Looking ahead, the potential impact of health care on the 2010 mid-term elections appears to be mixed -- at this point.
Thirty percent of registered voters say they would be less likely to vote for their member of Congress if he or she supported the health care reforms now being proposed, but the same percentage would be more likely to vote for their representative. More than a third says the issue of health care would have no effect.
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Much of the public remains unconvinced that the reform proposals would benefit them personally - just 18 percent think they would. In fact, 31 percent believe reforms would hurt them and another 45 percent think they would have no effect.
Republicans (5 percent), seniors (7 percent) and those with insurance (14 percent) are some of the least likely groups to say they would be helped by the current reform proposals. Democrats (26 percent) and those earning less than $50,000 (25 percent) are most likely to say they would be helped.
The much-debated "public option" -- a government-run insurance plan -- still has the support of 62 percent of the public.
When asked to choose between providing coverage to the uninsured and keeping down costs as the more serious problem right now, 59 percent of Americans choose expanding coverage while 35 percent select keeping costs down.
This poll also asked Americans about the state of the economy: 84 percent say the economy is in bad shape, and just 16 percent say it is good. The unemployment rate reached a 26-year high last month, and the economy lost more jobs in September than anticipated.
Americans' outlook for the national economy has not changed since last month; the good news may be that most don't think it's getting worse. Just under a third think it is getting better, and 18 percent say it is getting worse. About half think it is staying the same.
As many as 45 percent of Americans continue to volunteer the economy and jobs as the nation's top problem, but the percentage that mention health care has crept up in recent months from 12 percent in July to 20 percent this month.
Read the Complete Poll
This poll was conducted among a random sample of 829 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone October 5-8, 2009. Phone numbers were dialed from random digit dial samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.
This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
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