Americans Still Sharply Divided on Healthcare Reform

by Lydia Saad

Opponents more likely than supporters to base their 2010 vote on the issue

PRINCETON, NJ -- The American people are no less divided on healthcare reform today than they were a month ago. A new Gallup Poll finds 39% of Americans saying they would direct their member of Congress to vote against a healthcare reform bill this fall while 37% want their member to vote in favor.


One in four Americans (24%) say they have no opinion about which way their representative should vote on a healthcare reform bill, down only slightly from early August.

The new Gallup Poll, conducted Aug. 31-Sept. 2, suggests the issue could be politically potent in 2010. Sixty-four percent of Americans say their representative's position on healthcare reform will be a major factor in their vote in the next congressional election; just over a third say it will be no more than a minor factor.


Opponents of reform have the edge in intensity here. Among Americans who want their member of Congress to vote against healthcare reform, 82% say the issue will be a major factor in their vote in next year's elections. Among those wanting their member to vote for reform, 62% say the issue will be a major factor for them.


Demographic Breaks on Support for Healthcare Reform

Public attitudes about how members of Congress should vote on healthcare reform are highly partisan. Two-thirds of Democrats (68%) want their representative to support a healthcare reform bill while a comparably sized majority of Republicans (72%) want their member to vote against it. Independents lean against healthcare reform, 44% vs. 29%, although their opposition does not rise to the level of a majority (28% of independents offer no opinion).

Apart from Democrats, support for healthcare reform is highest among women, lower-income Americans, those with postgraduate education, and residents of the East.

Looking at support by gender and age, women under 50 are particularly supportive (47% in favor of passage vs. 27% against), whereas women 50 and older are about evenly split.

A slight majority of upper-income Americans want their representative to vote against healthcare reform. Middle-income Americans are divided on the question while lower-income Americans are more supportive than opposed.

Young and middle-aged Americans are closely divided in their views, while adults 55 and older lean against reform. These generational findings are consistent with other Gallup polling in recent months finding seniors to be the most hesitant of all age groups about healthcare reform.


Bottom Line

A month of town-hall meetings across the country during Congress' August recess has hardly budged Americans' views about passing a healthcare reform bill, or helped many more Americans form an opinion. The public is as divided over healthcare reform today as at the beginning of August (37% in favor and 39% opposed), with a large segment still undecided.

Although the two sides on healthcare reform are about evenly matched numerically, opponents may have a political edge. The 82% of reform opponents saying the issue will be a major factor in their vote for Congress next year eclipses the 62% of reform advocates who say the same.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,026 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 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

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