Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Gallup Polls on the Healthcare Debate

Despite the fact that Americans don’t seem to be happy about much of anything these days, recent trends in the Gallup polls find that Americans are becoming increasingly confident in the outlook of the U.S. economy, and increasingly satisfied with the State of the Nation. In fact, these polls are reaching all-time highs for 2009.

43% of Americans now believe the economic outlook is good (with 50% believing it’s bad) - that’s a 25% improvement since the beginning of the year.

Meanwhile, 32% of Americans say they are satisfied with the state of the nation (with 65% saying they are not) - a roughly 17% improvement since the start of 2009.

Yet the issue of healthcare has become remarkably tricky to follow in terms of public opinion. This has become even more significant since the rabid town hall protests started at the end of last month.

Gallup finds that most Americans (69%) are following the disruptions at town hall meetings closely, with Republicans being the most engaged in news of protests (at 79%).

And while a plurality of Americans (36%) say that the protests haven’t made any difference towards their opinion of the healthcare issue, an incredible 34% say that the protests have made them “more sympathetic” to the conservative view.

Those views also came down along predictably partisan lines.

So far these findings appear to suggest that the anti-reform protests are working. But there is some evidence that they might be backfiring - they are only emboldening Democrats to push for reform.

The study finds that Democrats - who ended up feeling less sympathetic of the conservative view as a result of the protests - are the only group who say that the protests have been a greater factor on their opinions than their pre-existing views on healthcare.

What effect are these developments having on the healthcare debate?

No two polls are the same, so it’s difficult to compare the recent Gallup findings with others, but - at least at first glance - it appears that Americans are becoming more thoughtful about whether they support a specific bill.

A USA Today poll last month found that only 12% of Americans had couldn’t say whether or not they would support a healthcare reform bill passing by the end of 2009.

In another recent Gallup poll, 29% of Americans said they weren’t sure if they would advise their members of Congress to support a bill when they return from August recess.

Again, these results fell upon predictably partisan lines - Democrats saying “yes” and Republicans saying “no” to supporting reform.

And while a plurality of Americans (49%) disapproves of President Obama’s handling of the healthcare issue - with 43% approving - there has been no net change in approval-disapproval since before the town hall protests started.

What’s far more remarkable is that that while Americans are becoming more and more optimistic about the economy (as seen in the graph above) they are, paradoxically, supporting the president’s handling of the economy less and less.

It’s doubtful that in the coming months and years of the current administration, Obama’s approval rating on healthcare will be static and his approval on the economy will continue to dissipate while the economy simultaneously improves (as the majority of economists believe it will).

But this does demonstrate just how tricky it is to track public opinion and - for a prospective candidate or up-for-re-election politician - develop a campaign message while the nation seems so utterly confused with what it thinks.

UPDATE: An interesting comment we received for this post asks "How does shouting down to stop the conversation of the healthcare debate at town hall meetings endear them to anyone?"

We should point out that according to one of the Gallup polls Americans have differing opinions about different tactics coming from these conservative activists - except they generally think that "shouting down" those who disagree with them is an "abuse of democracy."


Paul said...

It’s funny we hear Republicans say that they do not want “faceless bureaucrats” making medical decisions but they have no problem with “private sector” “faceless bureaucrats” daily declining medical coverage and financially ruining good hard working people (honestly where can they go with a pre-condition). And who says that the “private sector” is always right, do we forget failures like Long-Term Capital, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Enron, Tyco, AIG and Lehman Brothers. Of course the federal government will destroy heathcare by getting involved, Oh but wait, Medicare and Medicaid and our military men and women and the Senate and Congress get the best heathcare in the world, and oh, that’s right, its run by our federal government. I can understand why some may think that the federal government will fail, if you look at the past eight years as a current history, with failures like the financial meltdown and Katrina but the facts is they can and if we support them they will succeed.

How does shouting down to stop the conversation of the healthcare debate at town hall meetings, endears them to anyone. Especially when the organizations that are telling them where to go and what to do and say are Republicans political operatives, not real grassroots. How does shouting someone down or chasing them out like a “lynch mob” advanced the debate, it does not. So I think the American people will see through all of this and know, like the teabagger, the birthers, these lynch mobs types AKA “screamers” are just the same, people who have to resort to these tactics because they have no leadership to articulate what they real want. It’s easy to pickup a bus load of people who hate, and that’s all I been seeing, they hate and can’t debate. Too bad.

Anonymous said...

As a retired nurse who worked in hospitals for fourty-two years, I've seen the worst that can happen when people are uninsured. I am fully infavor of healthcare reform and strongly in favor of the public option, because I believe it is the only way to lower premium costs. I am disgussted at the conservative right that has no sympathy for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are driven into bankruptcy every year because of health care bills. These are the same people who voted against healthcare for our poorest children and, by the way, also the same ones who espouse to be religious conservatives. They care very deeply about the lives of a three month fetus but care little about the lives of the sick uninsured in this country. How can they be so blind as to not understand that this is a humanitarian issue. They supported the war in Iraq so vigorously and it cost far more than the President's plan for health care reform. They also supported Bush's drug plan for senior's. Neither of these were paid for but they would deny healthcare to the uninsured because "we can't afford it".
The truth is they know we are already paying for health care for many of the uninsured because most of the cost is never reimbursed. It is written off by hospitals and physicians who make up the losses by charging us, the paying insured public more, which in turn raises aour health insurance premiums. It' a viscious cycle that has gone on for years. The true victims are the uninsured who own a home or other property that can be attached or have a steady job so their wages can be garnished---the lower middle class families that struggle to just make their house payment and put food on the table.