Politics

Obama Retains More Trust Than Congress on Healthcare

by Frank Newport

Confidence in Obama and Democrats down since June; trust highest in doctors and hospitals

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans remain more confident in the healthcare reform recommendations of President Obama (49%) than in the recommendations of the Democratic (37%) or Republican (32%) leaders in Congress. But these confidence levels are lower than those measured in June, suggesting that the ongoing healthcare reform debate has taken a toll on the credibility of the politicians involved.

Confidence in Politicians to Recommend the Right Thing for Healthcare Reform

"In addition to Americans' loss of confidence in the healthcare recommendations of Obama and Democrats in Congress (and a marginal drop in their confidence in Republicans in Congress), Americans' confidence in pharmaceutical and health insurance companies also fell."

Gallup from March 2-3 asked Americans a question first asked last June -- whether they were confident or not confident in the healthcare recommendations of eight groups of potential influencers. The list of those measured includes not only Obama and the Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress, but also hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies, and university professors and researchers who study healthcare policy.

As was the case nine months ago, Americans express the most widespread confidence in doctors, hospitals, and university professors and researchers. Americans are least likely to have confidence in health insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies -- although these two institutions have only marginally lower confidence ratings than do Republicans in Congress.

Confidence in Each to Recommend the Right Thing for Healthcare Reform

In addition to Americans' loss of confidence in the healthcare recommendations of Obama and Democrats in Congress (and a marginal drop in their confidence in Republicans in Congress), Americans' confidence in pharmaceutical and health insurance companies also fell -- by 10 and 9 points, respectively.

Not every group has lost ground, however. Americans' trust in doctors and hospitals has increased slightly since June, while their trust in "university professors and researchers who study healthcare policy" has stayed roughly the same.

Partisan Differences

It is no surprise to find that confidence in the political entities tested -- Obama, Democratic leaders, and Republican leaders -- is highly partisan. Of the three, rank-and-file Democrats are most likely to be confident in Obama and congressional Democrats. Republicans are most likely to be confident in congressional Republicans.

Confidence in Politicians to Recommend the Right Thing for Healthcare Reform, by Party

Obama elicits higher confidence (83%) than Democrats in Congress (67%) do from rank-and-file Democrats as well as from independents (44% vs. 30%), helping explain why Obama's overall confidence ratings are higher than the Democrats'. Republicans in Congress get a 64% confidence rating from Republicans. Independents are less positive about either party's leaders in Congress than they are about Obama.

Politics don't appear to make much of a difference in Americans' ratings of doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and health insurance companies. All have roughly similar confidence ratings across the three partisan groups.

Confidence in Each to Recommend the Right Thing for Healthcare Reform, by Party

In contrast, university professors and researchers receive sharply more negative ratings from Republicans (43%) than from independents (61%) or in particular Democrats (76%).

Implications

As the debate over healthcare reform legislation enters what could be its final month, the American public's confidence in several of the political players who have been at the heart of the fray has eroded. President Obama's confidence ratings have slipped to the point where about half of Americans have confidence in what he recommends, and half do not. (This confidence rating is roughly on par with Obama's overall job approval rating at this point.) Confidence ratings for Democratic congressional leaders and, to a lesser degree, Republican leaders, have also dropped, leaving Obama with the highest credibility of these three political groups.

Americans remain highly confident in the healthcare reform recommendations of doctors, hospitals, and healthcare researchers -- and these confidence levels have stayed the same or increased slightly since June. Both doctors and hospitals, of course, have major financial stakes in the outcome of any healthcare reform legislation that is passed. This doesn't seem to affect Americans' trust in them. On the other hand, two other entities with financial interests in the reform process -- healthcare insurers and pharmaceutical companies -- have quite low credibility with the public. It may be that the latter two organizations have been more overt in their lobbying and/or that Americans' typical dealings with these organizations have more negative overtones than their dealings with doctors and hospitals.

All in all, it appears that Obama remains the most influential political entity in terms of healthcare reform, albeit it at a time when neither he nor congressional leaders of either party can claim more than a 50% credibility level on this topic. At the same time, if the country's doctors or hospital administrators were to take a more public role in the debate, it appears that Americans would be quite willing to listen to their views.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 992 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 2-3, 2010, as part of Gallup Daily tracking. 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 and cellular phones.

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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Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/126338/Obama-Retains-Trust-Congress-Healthcare.aspx
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