Public support for President Barack Obama's new health care law has risen to its highest point, a new Associated Press-GfK poll has found.
Americans remain divided, with 45 percent in favor and 42 percent opposed to the president's signature domestic accomplishment. But the shift in public sentiment is significant and could affect the November congressional election and Obama's hopes for winning another term in 2012.
Opposition to the overhaul increased after Congress passed it in March. And last month, supporters were outnumbered 39 percent to 46 percent. But the latest survey found the strongest backing for the health care plan since the AP-GfK poll began asking in September.
The poll found support increased since May among men (from 36 percent to 46 percent), people in their prime working years (from 35 percent to 49 percent among 30-49 year-olds) and Republicans (from 8 percent to 17 percent.) The uptick among Republicans comes even as party leaders are calling for the law's repeal.
The changes coincide with a concerted effort by the Obama administration, congressional Democrats and their allies to sell the immediate benefits of the law.
Those include coverage for young adults on their parents' plan until they turn 26, a $250 rebate check for seniors with high prescription costs, tax credits for some small businesses that cover their employees and federal funding to train more primary care doctors and nurses.
"They are clearly making progress in convincing more Americans that this bill is the right way to go," said Robert Blendon, a Harvard University public health school professor who tracks opinion trends on health care.
But the prognosis for Obama and the Democrats is still uncertain. "In my view, they can claim victory if it gets a majority," Blendon added. "The country is so polarized, it just might not make it."
The United States is the only developed country without a system of universal health care, and the $1 trillion, 10-year health care remake puts it on a path to coverage for all. Starting in 2014, all Americans. The government will provide tax credits to help middle-class people not covered at work buy a policy through new competitive health insurance markets.
One complication for the president is that seniors remain opposed to the law. Just last week,at a televised town hall meeting in a senior center, but his assurances seem to be having little effect. The poll found that 56 percent of people 65 and older don't like the new law.
Since seniors are more likely to vote in off-year elections, gains in support among younger people may not help Democratic candidates running this fall.
Still, Americans don't seem to be turning to Republicans for answers. The poll found that 51 percent trust Democrats to do a better job of handling health care, an issue that 77 percent rate as personally important to them. By comparison, 38 percent said they trusted Republicans.
The AP-GfK Poll involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,044 randomly chosen adults and was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from June 9-14. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.