The More People Think They Know Health Reforms, Opposition Rises

August 10, 2009

In late January only 17 percent of the public claimed to know much about President Obama’s health care reform proposals. By late July, just before the president’s press conference on July 22, that number had more than doubled, to 36 percent, while fully 72 percent felt they knew “a lot” or “some.”

How much people feel they know about the president’s proposals are strongly correlated with opposition to them.

These are some of the results from The Harris Poll, a new study of 2,029 U.S. adults surveyed online between July 20 and 22, 2009 by Harris Interactive.

This survey also repeated another question that Harris asked in January to measure support and opposition to the president’s health reform proposals. In January, a 50 percent to 20 percent plurality supported them (while in most cases admitting that they did not know a lot about them). In the late July survey the public was almost equally divided, with only a slender 42 percent to 38 percent plurality supporting the president’s proposals.

More bad news for the president comes from the results to another question on what people believe would be the impact of his plans if they were implemented. All of the changes since January show increasing numbers of people who are not convinced about the benefits of the plans.

Those who think that the plans would be “good” for each of the following have fallen:

  • For the quality of medical care, from 47% to 35%;
  • For “people like you” from 45% to 34%;
  • For containing costs, from 49% to 39%;
  • For providing more people with adequate insurance, from 61% to 52%;
  • For strengthening the economy, from 42% to 30%;
  • For making care more cost effective, from 54% to 42%.

The numbers who think that the president’s proposal would be “bad” for each of these six items have jumped, and in some cases, doubled. For example:

  • 34% of adults now think that Obama’s proposed reform would be bad for “people like you,” compared to only 18% in January; and
  • 35% believe that they would be bad for “strengthening the economy,” compared to only 19% in January.

However, the really bad news for President Obama and the Democrats is that opposition to his proposals increases from 22% of those who feel they know only a little about them to a 54% majority of those who feel they know a lot. Only 42% of these “well informed” people support the plan.

Unsurprisingly, given all these findings, the public is divided about how important it is to pass “a major health care bill to expand health insurance coverage” in President Obama’s first year in office. Only 23% think that it is extremely or very important, 34% think it is not important, and 21% think it only somewhat important.

Source: The Harris Poll

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