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Support for Health Care Plan Falls to New Low

Just 38% of voters now favor the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. That's the lowest level of support measured for the plan in nearly two dozen tracking polls conducted since June.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 56% now oppose the plan.

Half the survey was conducted before the Senate voted late Saturday to begin debate on its version of the legislation. Support for the plan was slightly lower in the half of the survey conducted after the Senate vote.

Prior to this, support for the plan had never fallen below 41%. Last week, support for the plan was at 47%. Two weeks ago, the effort was supported by 45% of voters.

Intensity remains stronger among those who oppose the push to change the nation's health care system: 21% Strongly Favor the plan while 43% are Strongly Opposed.

Rasmussen Reports is continuing to track public opinion on the health care plan on a weekly basis. Next week's Monday morning update will give an indication of whether these numbers reflect a trend of growing opposition or are merely statistical noise.

Only 16% now believe passage of the plan will lead to lower health care costs. Nearly four times as many (60%) believe the plan will increase health care costs. Most (54%) also believe passage of the plan will hurt the quality of care.

As has been the case for months, Democrats favor the plan while Republicans and voters not affiliated with either major party are opposed. The latest numbers show support from 73% of those in the president's party. The plan is opposed by 83% of Republicans and 70% of unaffiliated voters.

Other recent polling shows that Democrats consider health care reform to be the top priority for the president. Republicans and unaffiliated voters see deficit reduction as most important.

Among the nation's senior citizens, 34% favor the health care plan and 60% are opposed. A majority of those under 30 favor the plan, but a majority of all other age groups are opposed (Premium Members can see full demographic crosstabs).

obama_approval_index_november_23_2009Support for health care has declined along with President Obama's approval ratings. For the first time in the Obama era, the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Approval Index has been in negative double digits for nine straight days.

Despite the decline in support for the health care plan, 50% still say it is at least somewhat likely to become law this year. That figure includes 17% who say passage is Very Likely.

While Senate Democrats this weekend assembled enough votes to begin debate on the plan, many challenges remain. All Republican Senators and several Democrats, for example, have expressed opposition to the so-called "public option." Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters nationwide say guaranteeing that no one is forced to change their health insurance coverage is a higher priority than giving consumers the choice of a "public option" government-run health insurance company. Most liberal voters say giving people the choice of a "public option" is more important. But most moderates take the opposite view and say guaranteeing that no one is forced to change their health insurance is the top priority.

Overall, 46% favor the creation of a government-sponsored non-profit health insurance option that people could choose instead of a private health insurance plan. However, if the plan encouraged companies to drop private health insurance coverage for their workers, support for the public option falls to 29%, and opposition rises to 58%.

As Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, wrote in the Wall Street Journal: "The most important fundamental is that 68% of American voters have health insurance coverage they rate good or excellent. ... Most of these voters approach the health care reform debate fearing that they have more to lose than to gain."

Other challenging issues in the Senate debate include abortion and illegal immigration. Ever since the House's passage of the Stupak Amendment which says the "public option" would not cover elective abortions and that recipients of federal insurance subsidies could not use them to buy abortion coverage, the divide among Democrats has been visible.

Earlier polling showed that 48% nationwide favored the abortion ban, but most supporters of health care reform didn't want to address the issue. Just 13% of all voters wanted abortion coverage mandated in the legislation.

On immigration, 83% say that proof of citizenship should be required before anyone can get health care assistance from a government program. Most Democrats while claiming the plan will not cover illegal immigrants are opposed to including a proof-of-citizenship stipulation.

Other polling shows that 47% trust the private sector more than government to keep health care costs down and the quality of care up. Two-thirds (66%) say an increase in free market competition will do more than government regulation to reduce health care costs.

While voters are skeptical of the plan working its way through Congress, 54% say major changes are needed in the health care system. Sixty-one percent (61%) say it's important for Congress to pass some reform.

Only 31% believe Congress has a good understanding of the proposed health care reform.

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