Policy-ish

Public Opinion In Doldrums On Health Law

Well, at least this August, unlike the one a year ago, didn't feature all those raucous town hall meetings where opponents of health care overhaul dominating the news.

Yet, according to the monthly tracking poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, even this quieter summer saw public opinion on what's now the health law of the land slip a little.

The monthly poll saw favorable ratings for the law drop from 50 percent in July to 43 percent in August. At the same time, however, respondents remain almost evenly split in how they think they will be personally affected; with 29 percent saying they will be better off, 30 percent predicting they will be worse off, and 36 percent saying they still don't know.

Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman says he doesn't read much into the monthly swings:

It really is like the stock market recently; it's trading in a narrow band. But if you step back, it really isn't moving. The public is split, has been split, and continues to be split. It's basically a third (saying they are more likely to support a candidate who voted for the bill) a third (saying they are more likely to oppose a candidate who voted for the bill) and a third (saying it won't affect their vote one way or the other).

To see what Altman's driving at, take a look at Talking Point Memo's health poll mashup, which averages the results from a bunch of different polls.

Still, Altman does allow that it's likely that the July upswing might have been due to the rollout that month of "a rapid barrage of announcements about very popular things" in the law, including new preventive health benefits for people with insurance, and new "high risk pools" to help provide insurance coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions.

And the August dip? "It's just a tough public opinion environment," he says. "Because they're crabby, understandably, about the economy. It's the thing that's sitting there for them to be upset about now."

But before Republicans get too excited, Altman says the poll also suggests the health law may not play much of a role in the upcoming mid-term election.

When pollsters asked those who said they were "angry" about the new law exactly what they were angry about, he says, "84 percent of them said they were angry about the general direction in Washington and health reform was just one of many things that was upsetting them."

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