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Poll: Support for Public Option Grows

President Obama made some progress explaining his health care reform proposals to Americans with his speech Wednesday night, a new CBS News poll shows, winning more support for a so-called public option. Still, Americans are mostly doubtful health care coverage can be expanded to more Americans without increasing the deficit.

After Mr. Obama's Congressional address on health care reform, CBS re-interviewed 648 adults who were first interviewed in a CBS News Poll conducted August 27-31. Fifty-three percent of them say they tuned in to watch the speech.

Among those who watched, 60 percent say they mostly agree with the health care plans the president presented; 33 percent mostly disagree.

Many Americans still aren't sure he has met one important goal -- clarifying what reforms would mean - although there has been major improvement.

Policy Options

In his speech, President Obama offered support for the so-called "public option" -- a government-administered health insurance plan -- but said it was only one part of his plan. Support for the public option has risen since last week from 57 percent to 68 percent. Among speech watchers, support for the public option lies at 70 percent.

The president also discussed reforms, such as requiring health insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions and mandating coverage for everyone. Special Report: Health Care

Most Americans - 73 percent - support such increased regulation of insurance companies (including a limit on the ability of companies to deny people coverage). The public is more divided on the issue of requiring all Americans to buy health insurance, but 54 percent still favors that.

In his speech, Mr. Obama argued that a public health option, health exchanges, and other reforms would increase competition in the health insurance marketplace. While 46 percent of Americans agree with the president, 19 percent disagree, and 26 percent say there would be no impact.

There are still some doubts about whether health care coverage can be expanded to more Americans without increasing the deficit. While 52 percent say that is not possible, 42 percent think it is.


After the speech, 52 percent say they approve of how the president is handling health care, up from 40 percent last week.

The president's speech was particularly successful in unifying Democrats. As many as 85 percent of them now approve of Mr. Obama's handling of health care. And even though approval also rose among independents and Republicans, independents are still divided, and only 17 percent of Republicans approve the president's handling of health care.

As is often the case in presidential addresses, Americans who watched the speech were more likely to be from the president's own political party. Forty-two of speech watchers identified themselves as Democrats, 27 percent were Republicans and 31 percent were independents. Poll Database

Fifty-three percent of speech watchers think health care in the U.S. would get better if the plans Mr. Obama laid out in his speech are adopted. In September 1993, President Bill Clinton received slightly more positive reviews for his proposals after his speech on health care reform at 60 percent.

Mr. Obama said in his speech, "the time for bickering is over" and "we must bring the best ideas of both parties together." Nearly two in three Americans, at 65 percent, think the president is trying to work with Republicans in Congress in order to bring about health care reform.

Most Americans (61 percent) see the passage of health care reform as likely to happen by the end of this year, but just one in five call it very likely.

Still, most Americans remain skeptical about how reforms currently under consideration in Congress would affect them personally. Only 22 percent think these plans would help them. A sizeable number thinks these reforms would either have no effect (42 percent) or would hurt them personally (27 percent). These numbers are virtually the same as last week.

Read the Complete Poll

Full coverage of the president's speech on health care:

Obama Tells Congress to Stop Bickering
Full Video Full Transcript Speech Highlights
GOP Response: "It's Time to Start Over"
Marc Ambinder: Will Obama's Sales Job Work?
Mark Knoller: Obama Willing to Compromise - Up to a Point
Was Obama Clear on the Public Option?
Ted Kennedy's Letter to Obama
Rep. Wilson Apologizes for Obama Speech Outburst
Analysis: The Road Ahead for Health Care

This poll was conducted by telephone on September 10, 2009 among 648 adults first interviewed by CBS News August 27-31, 2009. Phone numbers were dialed from 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 four 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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