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Poll: More Approve of Obama on Health Care

President Barack Obama's recent speeches and public appearances explaining his proposals for health care reform have made some impact, according to a new CBS News/ New York Times poll -- but he still has work to do, and a majority of Americans remain confused.

The president's approval rating for handling health care is up seven points from one month ago, and more Americans overall support his plans than oppose them - but four in 10 say they still don't know enough about the proposals to say.

The public has yet to accept some of the points the president has been making about his reform ideas. For instance, many aren't sure if illegal immigrants will receive coverage. But three in four Americans think the Republicans have not explained their ideas for reform and are not trying to work with the president.

The President, Congress and the Politics of Reform

Now, 47 percent of Americans approve of the job Mr. Obama is doing handling health care, up seven points from last month, while 45 percent disapprove. In a CBS News Poll conducted before the president's address to Congress on health care earlier this month, just 40 percent approved and 47 percent disapproved.

When asked whether they mostly favor or oppose the changes to the health care system proposed by the president, 46 percent say they don't know enough about those changes to have an opinion. But among those who do have an opinion, more support (30 percent) than oppose (23 percent) the reforms.

Read the Complete Poll

Views on this divide along partisan lines, with more Republicans opposing the reforms and more Democrats in support of the changes. Half of independents don't have an opinion, and the rest are divided.

As many as 59 percent of Americans say they are confused by the current health care reform proposals, while just 37 percent say they understand them. Correspondingly, only 32 percent of Americans say Mr. Obama has clearly explained his plans for health care reform, and 62 percent say he has not.

Republicans in Congress are not doing any better, however. Only 14 percent of Americans say Republicans have clearly explained their plans while 76 percent say they have not.

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There is skepticism as to whether Mr. Obama is accurately describing what the results of his proposed health care reforms would be. Just 32 percent think he describes the results of reform accurately. As many as 55 percent think that when he talks about the outcome of his proposed changes to the health care system, he makes it sound better than it will be.

More Americans think the president is describing the current state of the health care system in the U.S. accurately - 47 percent say so.

The public sees both parties in Congress as having political motivations for their stance on Mr. Obama's plans for health care reform. Sixty-four percent say that Republicans are opposed to these changes for political reasons, and 27 percent say it is because they think the proposed reforms would be bad for the country. A smaller majority, 53 percent, think Democrats support the president's plans for political reasons, while 36 percent think they do so because the reforms would be good for the country.

Policy Issues

During the president's address to Congress, he tried to allay concerns that health care reform would include coverage for illegal immigrants, and that the government would be making end of life decisions for seniors. But despite those assertions, many Americans are uncertain about whether those things would occur, and over a quarter think they will.

Forty-four percent don't know whether the changes being proposed to the health care system will help provide health insurance to illegal immigrants, and another 30 percent think they will. Just 22 percent say they won't.

The public is more divided on whether the reforms would include creating a government entity to decide when to stop providing medical care to the elderly. Nearly half don't know enough to say, and another 26 percent think they will do so, and 23 percent think they would not.

Much of the public remains unconvinced that the reform proposals would benefit them personally; 26 percent say reform would hurt them, and 44 percent say it would have no impact on them. Just 23 percent think they would benefit from reform. Still, that number has risen five points since August.

As for Medicare, more think the program will get worse instead of better. Seniors are especially concerned: 38 percent think if the changes to the health care system are implemented, the Medicare program will become worse. Only 6 percent think it would improve.

Half of the public thinks the government should require all Americans to have health insurance, as long as financial help is provided to those who cannot afford it. Most Democrats (70 percent) support this idea, while Republicans (59 percent) oppose it.

When it comes to footing the bill for expanding health care coverage, 55 percent of Americans approve of raising taxes on households and businesses earning more than $250,000.

There continues to be support for a government-run health insurance plan, or government option, with 65 percent of Americans saying they are in favor of the plan and 26 percent opposing it. In August, 60 percent were in favor of the plan, and 34 percent opposed it.

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1042 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone September 19-23, 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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