KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Updated: Poll Finds Health Care Was Most Important Issue For Mass. Voters

A post-election poll released Friday afternoon shows Republican Scott Brown's campaign for the Senate successfully tapped into Massachusetts voters' "dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, antipathy toward federal government activism and opposition to the Democrats' health-care proposals," according to The Washington Post. The poll "underscores how significantly voter anger has turned against Democrats in Washington." The poll was conducted by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University's School of Public Health.

The Post reports, "Health care topped jobs and the economy as the most important issue driving Massachusetts voters. … Overall, just 43 percent of Massachusetts voters say they support the health-care proposals advanced by Obama and congressional Democrats; 48 percent oppose them. Among Brown's supporters, however, eight in 10 said they were opposed to the measures, 66 percent of them strongly so." However, the poll found that 68 percent of voters in Tuesday's election support Massachusetts' universal health-care plan, which was enacted several years ago (Balz and Cohen, 1/22).

Meanwhile, in a poll released by USA Today and Gallup, a "majority of Americans say President Obama and congressional Democrats should suspend work on the health care bill that has been on the verge of passage and consider alternatives that would draw more Republican support," USA Today reports. "The results underscore the unsettled prospects for health care legislation - which has consumed much of the capital's energies for nearly a year - in the wake of Republican Scott Brown's upset victory in the Massachusetts Senate race Tuesday. … An overwhelming 72% of those surveyed Wednesday say the Bay State result 'reflects frustrations shared by many Americans, and the president and members of Congress should pay attention to it.'" 

The poll found less unanimity "about the larger meaning of Brown's victory, however: 55% call for Democrats to go back to the drawing board for a more bipartisan proposal while 39% say they should continue to work on the current bill. One in four Democrats say lawmakers should draft a new bill, as do 56% of independents and 87% of Republicans" (Page, 1/22). 

A separate poll released Friday by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that "Americans remain divided over health care reform proposals," but that a "significant number of people, including skeptics, become more supportive when told of specific provisions in the bill," Politics Daily's Poll Watch reports.

"In the Kaiser survey, 42 percent support the proposals in Congress, 41 percent oppose them, and 16 percent withheld judgment. Thirty-one percent describe themselves as 'strongly' opposed while those who strongly support the proposals number 19 percent. Independents are split, with 42 percent opposing and 41 percent supporting the proposals. Kaiser read a list of specific provisions of the legislation to those surveyed and asked whether each would make the person more or less likely to support the health care measures. The results could help identify elements for an alternative bill that's more acceptable to opponents." The poll was conducted Jan. 7-12 (Drake, 1/22).

The Washington Independent: Republicans have been trumpeting polls indicating that most Americans oppose the Democrats' proposals to reform the country's dysfunctional health care system. Yet there's increasing evidence that a good chunk of the opposition is rooted, not in any real criticism of the bills, but in the public's misunderstanding of what the bills would do. An example: The Kaiser Family Foundation today released the results of a poll finding that 42 percent of Americans support reform, while 41 percent oppose it. Yet the approval numbers leap when certain elements of the bill are described to the respondents" (Lillis, 1/22).

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