Nation is divided on whether ensuring health coverage is the government's responsibility
PRINCETON, NJ -- Given a choice, 47% of Americans favor repealing the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while 42% want it kept in place. Views on this issue are highly partisan, with Republicans strongly in favor of repeal and the large majority of Democrats wanting the law kept in place.
The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would review the healthcare law's constitutionality, a case that is likely to be heard in March, with a ruling issued by next summer. Thus, the law's ultimate fate may now be in the court's hands, rather than in Congress', although it will continue to be a dominant issue in the 2012 presidential campaign. Republicans and conservatives have continued to level criticism against the law since it was passed in March 2010, while President Obama has been just as vigorous in defending its objectives and future benefits.
Americans' views on repealing the healthcare law mirror their reactions to its passage. In October, Gallup found 40% of Americans saying passage of the healthcare law was a good thing and 48% a bad thing.
The possible repeal of the healthcare law is highly important to Americans on both sides of the question, with 66% of those favoring its repeal saying it is very important that Congress take this action, and 60% of those who believe it should be kept in place saying it is very important that Congress not repeal it.
Debate over the Affordable Care Act, both before it was passed and since, has focused largely on its implications for the role of the federal government in American society. Two trend questions included in Gallup's November Healthcare survey help shed light on these broader attitudes.
- Americans remain divided on whether it is the federal government's responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare -- 50% say it is, while 46% disagree -- the same basic pattern found in 2009 and 2010. Prior to 2009, a majority of Americans in Gallup's yearly updates said it was the federal government's responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage.
- In response to a separate question, 56% of Americans say they prefer a system for providing healthcare based mostly on private health insurance, rather than one that is government run. This response is similar to what Gallup found last year.
The Supreme Court is the latest battleground for the healthcare law, nearly two years after the executive and the legislative branch of government passed it, with lower courts having ruled since then on some of the legislation's provisions. The high court's ruling will bring the issue to the forefront of the presidential campaign next year. The Republican presidential nominee will no doubt reflect the majority position of rank-and-file Republicans that the law be repealed, while President Obama will continue to champion the virtues of the law.
Critics of the healthcare law argue that it is an example of too much government control over things that should be left to individuals and to private businesses. A majority of Americans agree that a private healthcare system is better than a government-run system, although proponents of the law can point out that it falls short of mandating a government-run healthcare system like those in Canada or European countries.
At the same time, half of Americans say the federal government should be responsible for making sure all Americans have health insurance, underscoring the divided nature of public opinion on this issue. About one in four American adults at this point have government-provided health insurance, making it clear that the issue going forward is the degree to which government should be involved in healthcare in the years ahead, rather than whether the government should get out of the healthcare business altogether.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 3-6, 2011, with a random sample of 1,012 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
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 and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.