August 14, 2009
8/14: Voters Divide on Obama’s Handling of Health Care
As the debate over health care reform rages on in Congress and in the public realm, President Barack Obama needs to do more to convince the American electorate that health care reform is the right course of action. 45% of registered U.S. voters say they disapprove of how the president is handling health care while 43% approve.
Not surprisingly, opinion is fractured along party lines with 74% of Democrats approving of how the president is dealing with the issue and 76% of Republicans disapproving of President Obama’s methods. Independents align with the GOP on this matter. A majority of Independents — 52% — are unhappy with how Mr. Obama is addressing the health care situation in the United States. There is also a large racial split. Overwhelmingly, African American voters approve of how the president is dealing with health care. 87% report President Obama is handling the situation appropriately while just 6% think he is not. White voters, on the other hand, tip the scales in the opposite direction. 52% of whites disapprove while 38% approve. Latino members of the electorate fall in the middle with 44% saying they agree with the president’s actions, and 32% reporting they do not.
Table: Handling of Health Care
Majority of Americans: Major Changes Needed, But Health Care Situation Will Not Improve
Although 65% of U.S. residents, including 67% of registered voters nationwide, think the country’s health care system needs major change, many are not optimistic about the impact of health care reform.
If Congress passes health care legislation, just 39% of Americans say health care in this country will get better. 55%, on the other hand, report that it will get worse or stay the same. Registered voters closely reflect the views of the overall population.
Once again, party affiliation comes into play. 65% of Democrats believe reform will improve the status of the nation’s health care while almost the identical proportion of Republicans — 63% — say it will worsen it. Looking at Independents, a plurality — 44% — believe reform will be a detriment to the system while 30% say it will be an improvement.
Older Americans are much more pessimistic about the future of the nation’s health care situation than are younger U.S. residents. Although similar proportions within both age groups believe health care will improve, more residents age 45 and older — 43% — believe it will get worse compared with 32% of their younger counterparts.
How will health care reform affect Americans personally? Just 28% of U.S. residents think health care for themselves and their families will get better while 67% think it will get worse or remain the same. This includes nearly one-third of Americans — 32% — who believe it will get worse. Voters here, too, are in line with the overall population.
Democrats are more optimistic than are Republicans on this question. 42% believe their personal health care situation will improve while 40% think it will stay the same. Just 13% of Democrats say it will get worse. Republicans are Democrats’ polar opposites here. 54% of Republicans say their health care will get worse, 31% report it will stay the same, and only 10% think it will get better.
Once again, older Americans are less optimistic than are younger residents. 36% of those 45 and older believe their personal health care circumstances will get worse while 27% of younger residents agree.
Table: Amount of Health Care Reform Needed
Table: Impact of Reform on National Health Care
Table: Impact of Reform on Personal Health Care
Nearly a Quarter to Blame Democrats in Congress if Health Care Doesn’t Meet Expectations
Who do Americans say is most responsible if health care legislation doesn’t live up to their expectations? 24% of residents say it’s the Democrats’ fault, 20% report the pharmaceutical companies are to blame, 15% point the finger at President Obama, 14% would fault the Republicans, and 12% blame doctors and hospitals.
Republicans are playing party politics on this question more than are the Democrats. 40% of Republicans say they would hold the Democrats responsible if health care legislation does not meet their expectations. On the other side of the aisle, Democrats are less likely to point the finger at Republicans. 25% of Democrats say they would hold members of the GOP accountable. More than a quarter of Independents — 26% — believe Democrats would be responsible. This proportion is followed closely by pharmaceutical companies.
Table: Responsibility for Failing to Meet Expectations