Politics

In U.S., Opposition to Healthcare Legislation Drops Modestly

Support holds steady at 51%, while percentage unsure rises

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' views on healthcare legislation have shifted modestly over the past three weeks, with a slight plurality (40%) now supporting the passage of a new healthcare bill, and with fewer (36%) saying they oppose a new bill. When the leanings of those without an opinion are taken into account, 51% of Americans favor or lean toward favoring a bill, while 41% oppose it or lean toward opposition -- a more sizeable gap in favor than three weeks ago.

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"The greater tilt in favor of a healthcare bill today is not because of increased support for it in recent weeks; rather, opposition has lessened, while a higher percentage of Americans express no opinion or leaning on healthcare reform."

In terms of Americans' initial preference for passing healthcare legislation (that is prior to those without an opinion being asked which way they lean), their views since August have changed very little from one poll to the next. However, the cumulative effect has been a slight increase in support for the bill over the past two months (from 35% to 40%) and a corresponding decline in those holding no opinion.

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That a quarter of Americans remain unsure may reflect the confusion created by the number of healthcare reform bills the House and Senate are still debating -- with different provisions in each and still no clarity about whether the final bill will include a "public option."

The greater tilt in favor of a healthcare bill today is not because of increased support for it in recent weeks; rather, opposition has lessened, while a higher percentage of Americans express no opinion or leaning on healthcare reform.

Demographic Differences

Attitudes toward a new healthcare bill remain largely divided along partisan lines. Democrats solidly favor healthcare legislation, with 66% saying they would advise their member of Congress to vote for it, with just 5% favoring a "no" vote. However, a rather substantial 29% of Democrats do not have an opinion at this point. Republicans are solidly opposed by 65% to 16%, with fewer undecided (19%). Independents are more likely to oppose (43%) than to favor (34%) healthcare legislation at this point.

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When partisans' leanings on healthcare legislation are taken into account, the results show solid Democratic support, solid Republican opposition, with independents evenly divided.

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Previous Gallup polling has found senior citizens to be the most widely opposed to healthcare reform legislation of all age groups, and that continues to be the case. The new poll finds 36% of seniors (aged 65 and older) in favor, 41% opposed, and 23% not having an opinion. Young adults -- those 18 to 29 years old -- are most supportive, with 43% in favor, 23% opposed, and 34% undecided. Americans between the ages of 30 and 64 are evenly divided, with 40% in favor, 38% opposed, and 22% undecided.

Bottom Line

The gap between supporters and opponents of new healthcare reform legislation has increased modestly over the past three weeks. Still, Americans remain largely divided, with a significant proportion undecided, although the current poll marks the first time more Americans favor than oppose healthcare legislation this year. The 51% of Americans favoring or leaning in favor of a bill gives President Obama and his congressional allies a bare majority of support, but perhaps not the solid public backing needed to advance the bill in Congress.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,013 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct 1-4, 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 landline telephones (for respondents with a landline 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.

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/123470/Opposition-Healthcare-Legislation-Drops-Modestly.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030