Constituents Divided, Highly Partisan on Healthcare Reform

by Frank Newport

Equally split in advising Congress to vote for (35%) or against (36%) a new law

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans at this point have mixed sentiments on the issue of a new healthcare reform bill. A new Gallup Poll finds that about the same percentage (35%) would tell their congressional representative to vote for a new healthcare reform bill when Congress reconvenes in September as say they would tell their representative to vote against such a bill (36%). The rest (29%) have no opinion either way at this time.


Members of Congress are for the most part home in their districts this August, and are by all accounts facing highly opinionated constituencies on the issue of healthcare reform. News reports have highlighted often-contentious debates taking place at town hall meetings held by senators and representatives seeking input on the issue.

Previous Gallup Poll measures have shown majority support for the concept of healthcare reform but a July poll result indicated that when Americans are given choices about the timing for a new reform law, a majority say either that they support a bill but do not believe it needs to be passed this year, or that a new bill is not necessary at all. The current poll results, based on a different question wording, show that a sizable group of about 3 in 10 Americans are undecided on the issue, and those who have an opinion are evenly divided.

Highly Partisan Reactions

The new question on healthcare reform, included in Gallup's Aug. 6-9 poll, did not identify or connect the idea of a new healthcare reform law with any specific individual or party. Still, the responses are highly partisan. The majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (66%) say they would tell their member of Congress to vote against a new healthcare reform bill. The majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (59%) say they would tell their member to vote for a reform bill. Only 10% of each party group has the contrary opinions, i.e., Republicans wanting their member to vote for a bill or Democrats wanting their member to vote against such a bill.


A previous Gallup review of the healthcare reform issue showed that only about a fourth of Americans believe that members of Congress understand the issues involved in healthcare reform. Additionally, Americans see the economy rather than healthcare reform as the top problem facing the country at this point -- although the percentage saying health issues are the top problem facing the country has been rising.

The latest measure reviewed here suggests that a sizable group of Americans are still open to persuasion on the issue. Both sides of the issue are working diligently to promote their side of the debate, including a new "Health Insurance Reform Reality Check" initiative by the White House. It is possible that the interaction between representatives and their constituents over the next several weeks -- coupled with the intense media focus on healthcare reform -- may further affect public opinion either for or against healthcare legislation as Congress returns to Washington in September.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,010 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 6-9, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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