Evenly split on long-term impact on healthcare system; one in four expect personal benefit
PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans are evenly split on the potential impact of new healthcare legislation, should it ultimately be passed into law. Forty-one percent say a new healthcare bill would make the U.S. healthcare system better in the long run, while 40% say it would make things worse.
"Americans have moved in a more negative direction on the basic issue of whether a new bill should be passed into law."
These new data on the impact of healthcare reform are based on a Gallup poll conducted Thursday through Sunday. Late Saturday night, a sweeping new healthcare bill passed the House, and now awaits action by the Senate. (The majority of interviews included in the current poll were completed before the House vote.) President Obama hopes the two chambers will reach agreement on a new bill by the end of the year, although some consider that timetable doubtful.
Americans are more negative about the impact of a new healthcare bill on their personal situations than they are about its impact on the nation as a whole. By a 10-point margin, Americans are more likely to say a new bill would make their personal healthcare situations worse (36%), rather than better (26%). Almost 4 out of 10 say a bill would make no difference, or have no opinion on the topic.
All in all, the data reinforce previous research showing some skepticism about the long-term benefits of healthcare legislation, particularly at the personal level. Less than half of the public at this juncture perceives that if a new healthcare bill is passed into law, it would improve either the broad U.S. healthcare system or their own healthcare situations.
Should Congress Vote for or Against a New Bill?
Americans have moved in a more negative direction on the basic issue of whether a new bill should be passed into law. Thirty-eight percent now say they would advise their member of Congress to vote against a new healthcare bill this year, while 29% would advise their member to vote for it, and about a third have no opinion. When those with no opinion are asked which way they lean, the verdict becomes 48% "against," and 43% "for." Both of these results are more negative than those from early October.
Views on Healthcare Reform Remain Highly Partisan
The vote in the House on Saturday was partisan, although 39 Democrats defected from their party's leadership and voted against the bill. Only one Republican House member voted for the bill.
The views of rank-and-file Americans generally follow this pattern. The significant majority of Republicans would want their member of Congress to vote against a new healthcare bill, while a smaller majority of Democrats would want their member to vote for a bill. Independents are more negative than positive by a 2-to-1 margin. Notably, Democrats are the most likely to be undecided on the issue.
When "leans" are taken into account, most Democrats at least lean toward the positive position and most Republicans lean toward the negative. Seventy-nine percent of Republicans either initially or after being probed to say which way they lean would want their member to vote against a new bill. Seventy-one percent of Democrats would want their member to vote for a new bill. Importantly, independents come down more against (53%) than in favor (37%).
The debate over new healthcare legislation now shifts to the Senate, at a time when the majority of Americans are not convinced that a new law would benefit either the national healthcare system or their own personal healthcare situations in the long term. The overall advice from the average American to his or her member of Congress at this point tilts negative, although about a third of Americans initially say they have no opinion on the legislation.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,008 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 5-8, 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.