KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Polls Find Americans Want Obama To Focus More On Economy, Less On Health Care

As President Barack Obama prepares to give his State of the Union address this evening, new polls show public support for congressional health bills is low, with a majority wanting more focus on the economy instead.

"Only three in ten Americans say they want Congress to pass legislation similar to the health care reform bills that have already been approved by the House and Senate, according to a new national poll," CNN reports. "A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey also indicates that nearly half the public, 48 percent, would like federal lawmakers to start work on an entirely new bill, and 21 percent feel Congress should stop working an any bills that would change the country's health care system. … Fifty-eight percent of people questioned in the survey oppose the bills previously passed by the House and Senate, with 38 percent supporting that legislation." The poll was conducted Jan. 22-24, and has an overall sampling error of +/- 3 percentage points (1/26). 

The Wall Street Journal: "According to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, 51% of Americans believe Mr. Obama has paid 'too little attention' to the economy. Forty-four percent think he has paid 'too much attention' to his proposed overhaul of health care. A plurality continues to think that Mr. Obama's health-care plan is a bad idea."

In his speech tonight, "Mr. Obama will make a renewed focus on the economy and rising government deficits, with proposals such as a spending freeze in certain areas, designed to underscore the president's pivot to fiscal matters and away from an all-hands focus on transforming health care. The survey shows that the public should welcome the shift, which the White House has put into high gear since the Democrats' loss of a Senate seat in Massachusetts last week." The survey was done Jan. 23-25 and has a margin of error of =/- 3.5 percentage points (Wallsten, 1/26).

NPR: An NPR poll also found economic growth was the top priority for Americans. The survey, conducted by Republican Glen Bolger and Democrat Stan Greenberg, "finds that opinion has soured on Obama's No. 1 legislative priority this year: an overhaul of the country's health care system. ... In the NPR poll, likely voters oppose the president's plan by 55 percent to 39 percent, with the problem concentrated among independent voters" (Liasson, 1/27).

Boston Globe: "President Obama is expected to deliver a State of the Union speech tonight with a simple but politically crucial acknowledgment: Massachusetts, I heard you." Until last week's vote, "the president had been expected to make [health care's] passage a key point in the address. But with Brown's victory last week and with efforts to rescue the initiative stalled and in danger of collapsing yesterday, the president was not expected to lay out any specific plan to jump-start the legislation, once his top domestic priority" (Milligan, 1/27). 

The Associated Press: In an ABC interview earlier this week, Obama acknowledged that "Americans were understandably upset by the backroom dealmaking that he called ugly. … Strategists say Democratic leaders underestimated their foes' ability to use the Internet and other outlets to feed unsavory depictions of legislative dealmaking to angry voters already suspicious of Congress." During his Wednesday night address, he said "he will 'own up to the fact that the process didn't run the way I ideally would like it to'" (Babington, 1/27).

Politico: "Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said the president should make the pitch [to re-invite Republicans to the negotiating table] in the Wednesday address as a way to reverse the perception among voters that Democrats locked Republicans out of the health care talks" (Brown, 1/26).

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