Health Care Polling Clearly Indicates Confusion

Health care legislation was signed last week, but the shouting continues. Are polling results showing the majority of Americans don't support the health care bill accurate? Host Liane Hansen talks to Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup, about this week's USA Today/Gallup poll showing growing support for the health care law.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

There's no doubt that Tea Party members don't like the new health care law or much less about the Obama administration, but is it true that most Americans, as Republicans often claimed, are against what detractors call Obamacare?

Frank Newport is editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll and he joins us from Gallup's offices in Princeton, New Jersey. Thanks for being with us.

Mr. FRANK NEWPORT (Editor-In-Chief, Gallup Poll): Good to be with you.

HANSEN: After the House bill was passed, your survey asked whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. What did you find?

Mr. NEWPORT: Well, in that survey Monday night - over a thousand Americans - we found 49 percent saying good thing and good idea and 40 percent saying a bad thing, bad idea. And that's about a nine-point spread in favor of what the House did on Sunday.

HANSEN: Who were the most enthusiastic supporters?

Mr. NEWPORT: Well, this is not a great shock. Those, of course, who are Democrats were highly likely to support it. But beyond politics, it was those who didn't have insurance. Young people are less likely to have insurance than older Americans. People with low incomes, who additionally are less likely to have insurance, also were more enthusiastic about the bill.

HANSEN: Who were the least enthusiastic?

Mr. NEWPORT: Well, again, politics, of course, is a huge part of this. That comes as a big duh. Of course, at this point, Republicans much less likely. But as I mentioned, those who are older were less enthusiastic about the bill. Those with higher incomes were also less enthusiastic about what the House did.

HANSEN: I wonder, most people - I mean, it's always been said everybody backs a winner. You know, the health care bill passed, so if you were to take a poll, would people say, oh yeah, yeah, I support it?

Mr. NEWPORT: That could be part of it. And, again, our poll was Monday night within 24 hours and there was a lot of positive reaction. And we know in presidential approval research over the years, there's something called a rally effect. When something dramatic happens, often the public will push the approval rating up for the president. And that's why I think over the next several weeks we'll get a little better sense of how it's playing out.

HANSEN: Was it ever the case, as the Republicans often claimed in the debate leading up to the House vote, that most Americans were against restructuring the nation's health care system.

Mr. NEWPORT: You know, that's a fascinating question and Ive spent a lot of time looking at the data. It is clear that for most polling that was done prior to the vote, tilted against rather than in favor of the new health care legislation. Now, there's been a lot of variance.

Even in the couple of weeks leading up to the vote there was a poll by the Kaiser Foundation out of California showing a plurality supported the idea even one of two ways The Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll asked it - found a one-point spread in favor of it. But at the same time, there were other polls showing double-digit margins against passage of the bill.

Our Gallup poll taken before the vote showed a three-point margin against the bill. So, the polls were kind of all over the map. But if you had to summarize, I would say the polling did tilt away from passage of the bill.

HANSEN: But not by a large margin.

Mr. NEWPORT: That's right. When some people who opposed it said, you know, the vast majority of Americans, I always objected to that. Because even in polling that showed there was a plurality against it, it typically was not a majority 'cause you did have a big don't know factor in there as well.

HANSEN: Frank Newport is editor-in-chief in the Gallup Poll and he joined us from Princeton, New Jersey. Thank you very much.

Mr. NEWPORT: Good to be with you.

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