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Poll Shows Support for Public Option, But Not for Full Bill

Americans would strongly prefer a health care bill that includes a public option to a bill without it, a new CBS News poll shows, and only one in four say their preference is no health care legislation at all.

However, most Americans remain doubtful that the proposals currently before Congress would help them personally, according to the poll, conducted Nov. 13 -16. And amid a debate over restricting abortion coverage in the health care bill, more than half say federal subsidies for health care plans should not be allowed to pay for abortions.

The Public Option

When asked what kind of health care bill Congress should pass, 51 percent of Americans said a bill that contains a government-run health insurance plan, or "public option." Sixteen percent said a bill without a public option, while only 26 percent said they want no bill at all. Seven percent did not know or had no answer.

Democrats (by 72 percent to 13 percent) and independents (by 47 percent to 15 percent) prefer a bill with a public option over a bill without one. Among Republicans, just 23 percent want a public option, 20 percent want a bill without it, and 51 percent want no health care reform bill at all.

Track the Progress of Health Care Reform Special Report: Health Care

Views on the overall package of reform under consideration in Congress, as people understand it now, remain more negative (45 percent) than positive (40 percent), and split along partisan lines. Among Republicans, 74 percent disapprove and 20 percent approve. One quarter of Democrats disapprove of the proposals and 57 percent approve.

Just 19 percent of Americans think the changes would actually help them personally. That figure has remained unchanged since August. As many as 34 percent think the proposals would actually hurt them, while 41 percent say they would have no effect.

Health Care and Abortion Coverage

The House touched off controversy last week when it passed a health care bill containing an amendment addressing abortion coverage.

Although most Americans favor keeping abortion legal, most people, at 56 percent, think in principle federal subsidies for health care plans should not be allowed to pay for abortions. Views divide along ideological – not gender – lines: 57 percent of liberals think government subsidies should be allowed to pay for abortions, while 34 percent of moderates and just 20 percent of conservatives agree.

Views of Congress, the President

Americans continue to disapprove of how both Democrats and Republicans in Congress are handling health care reform. Democrats, with a 30 percent approval rating, do only slightly better than Republicans, at 23 percent. The negativity is not new, though positive views have slightly increased for both parties since the House passed its version of a reform bill.

The nation's Democrats just marginally approve of how their own party is doing on the issue: 51 percent of Democrats approve of how their congressional members are handling health care, while 41 percent disapprove.

But even fewer Republicans – 42 percent -- approve of how congressional Republicans are dealing with the issue.

President Obama's approval rating on health care stands at 44 percent. While 72 percent of Democrats approve, nearly a quarter of them disapprove. Republicans overwhelmingly (eight in 10) disapprove.

Read the Complete Poll

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This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1167 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone November 13-16, 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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