Support For Reform Softens, Pollster Reflects On How Public Mood Is Shaped

A new survey suggests that "most Americans support an overhaul of the health system, but the percentage who believe they (and their family) will be worse off from the change" has gone from 11 percent to 21 percent in the past five months, Kaiser Health News reports. "The survey, conducted July 7 to July 14 by the Kaiser Family Foundation, found 56 percent of Americans say now is the time for the country to overhaul the health system. That's down from 61 percent in June."  (note: KHN is a program of Kaiser Family Foundation).

"The softening of support for a broad health overhaul mirrors results in other recent polls, including one conducted by Zogby International and released last week. A Washington Post/ABC News poll this week showed approval for the way President Obama was handling health reform had slipped to under 50 percent for the first time" (Galewitz, 7/23).  

Gallup released the findings of a June poll detailing the demographics of the uninsured, The New York Times reports. According to the poll, 41.5% of Hispanics, 28.6% of people earning less than $34,000 and 27.6% of people aged 18-29 are uninsured. "Gallup also found that a slightly higher percentage of Americans over all are uninsured today than in the same period last year."  The Times noted that "young people, who are more likely to support a major health care overhaul, are also (not coincidentally) less likely to have health insurance" (Rampell, 7/22).

NPR interviewed Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup poll. "Part of the debate over health care is a debate over word choices. Every side uses words calculated to persuade people before they even think about it." Newport explains that "these are complex policy matters which the average American could not be expected to understand, particularly the nuances… The public listens for cues... In public policy debate, if you can grab the public's imagination by continually stressing something negative about something complex, that's what they will tend to agree to in the short term."

For example, "what President Obama refers to as a 'public option' that will keep private insurance companies 'honest,' for example, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah has called a 'government plan.' … 'The key there is: a public option that would be in existence along with a private plan,' Newport says. 'And when you put it that way, and when you stress that, every bit of polling I've looked at shows a majority approve that idea.' But many Americans have said they want a choice of insurance, doctors and hospitals, Newport says, so 'if you simply say, "Do you want the government to run health care?" the polling is much less positive'" (Inskeep, 7/22).



 

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