What do Americans think about health care reform?

A supporter of recent health care reform holds a sign outside the U.S. Supreme Court March 27, 2012 in Washington, D.C. The Supreme Court is about to hand down its decision on the health care reform bill. Gallup's Frank Newport reveals what Americans think.

Sarah Gardner: Any day now, the Supreme Court will rule on President Obama's health care overhaul -- "Obamacare" as dubbed by its critics. The court may strike down the whole thing or just parts of the new law. Whatever happens, some big health insurers have already said they're gonna keep up some of the reforms in the Affordable Healthcare Act. Question is, what do the people think of it?

Time now for Attitude Check. Frank Newport is the editor-in-chief of Gallup. Frank, welcome back.

Frank Newport: Good to be with you.

Gardner: Not that we are in the business of competing with you on polling, but we talked to some folks in downtown L.A. about the health care law today, and we wondered if this woman's response was typical or not. Just take a listen.

Woman: I do not support Obamacare because of the poor people who have no money to keep with the food is obligated to buy the health insurance.

OK, you heard that. She obviously hates the health care bill. Now, what do most Americans think?

Newport: The fact that she did not like the health care bill does in fact correspond with what almost all the recent polling shows, which is that Americans, when asked about it, felt more negative than positive. The whole idea about the poor, low-income people is kind of interesting because, yes, one of the reasons people object is the individual mandate, which is at the core of the Supreme Court decision.

Gardner: Right, and the individual mandate being that people will be forced to buy insurance or pay a penalty, right?

Newport: That's right, and in fact, that is the most negative thing of all. We had seven out of 10 Americans who said it was unconstitutional in their opinion. So if they were on the Supreme Court, they would vote that part of the health care act down.

Gardner: Of course it's a complicated bill, right Frank? I mean, there are a lot of changes in it. Did you get the feeling that people understand the whole thing, that they know what's in it, besides this individual mandate?

Newport: A couple of polls actually asked people: Do you think you understand this well enough to have an opinion? And at least a majority self-report that they do. But of course in politics, in a representative democracy, you don't have to demonstrate that you're highly conversant with an issue to have an opinion on it.

Gardner: Right, you don't make people take a test, Frank, before you poll them.

Newport: We don't, and that's an interesting issue in polling, because some people say we should. But you know, you don't have to take a test to vote, and the whole essence of a democracy like a jury is that you don't have to pass a knowledge test, that your opinions, wherever you are in our American spectrum, should count.

Gardner: I'm wondering, too, when you took this poll, do you know whether most of these people who you polled have health insurance?

Newport: Well, we asked that question. Most Americans do have health insurance, and with that taken into account, they still feel more negative than positive.

Gardner: I'm wondering though how this is going to affect the presidential election. And here's just a snippet of what we found on the streets of Washington, D.C., today.

I think there are probably stronger issues with the election. I definitely think it's important, but it probably wouldn't be enough to sway my vote.

Frank, what did you find?

Newport: I think that that's very representative of what we find from the American public. In fact, we just recently asked Americans who said they're going to vote for Obama or Romney: Why, in your own words? And a relatively small percent of voters on either side mentioned health care as the issue that was driving their vote.

Gardner: Frank Newport is the editor-in-chief at Gallup. The segment we do with them every week is called Attitude Check. Frank, thanks a lot.

Newport: My pleasure.

About the author

Frank Newport, Ph.D., is the editor-in-chief at Gallup and appears regularly on Marketplace.
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Ladies and gentlemen. I need to say it again before I can get to sleep tonight. This story is NOT about the healthcare bill. It is about the perception of the healthcare bill. Unfortunately today, perception is everything. Worse, many(most?) people aren't even informed/aware/engaged enough to know when they don't have enough knowledge to form an opinion. That's what the story was about, in the context of the health care bill. Of course it doesn't really matter much, as it's out of the hands of the "dude/tte" on the street.
For reference, there was an underrated movie a few years ago called Idiocracy. It's about a future where almost everyone is basically...moronic - incapable of intelligent and critical thinking. This story was just an attempt to point out that we are headed directly toward that future. I'd guess we're more than 50% there.
Oh, and make sure not to miss "America's got bread and circuses too!" on CBS this weekend! :-)

This story was a perfect example of the great disservice today's horse-race journalism does for the voting public. Not only was the story utterly useless, but it further broadcast incorrect information, as the other listeners commenting here have pointed out. I would add that this type of lazy reporting on the complex topic of health care reform is among the main reasons the public remains so ignorant about the law. And the greatest insult of yesterday's program? After reporting the latest poll results on how many people don't like the health care law and disseminating a healthy dose of misinformation, the entire nation of listeners was treated to an in-depth story about a phone app that records potholes in Boston. Much better journalism on display in the pothole story, by the way, even though it means absolutely nothing when compared to the economic importance of health care financing.

I fully concur with the other writers. This was a very sloppy, misleading report, not worthy of NPR. Not only is Ms Gardner a lazy reporter, for all the reasons already stated, but Mr. Newport made some very odd statements. No, a jury doesn't have to take a test before serving, but members do have to listen to all the evidence before rendering a judgment. And I have always understood that the foundation of our present system of representative government rest on decisions made at the voting booth by an INFORMED electorate. I have been a volunteer Medicare counselor for two years. I know how great the need is for broader, less expensive health care, and just how deep is the misunderstanding of the provisions of the ACA, due partly to the GOP but to perhaps a greater extent by reports like this one. Shame on you, Marketplace, for airing such a faulty and misleading report.

"...the foundation of our present system of representative government rest on decisions made at the voting booth by an INFORMED electorate." That was the point! Just take out the "INFORMED" and you have answered how GWB was elected. Twice!

This was a very poor piece of journalism. Sarah Gardner quotes a woman saying "I do not support Obamacare because of the poor people who have no money to keep with the food is obligated to buy the health insurance" and then comments "OK, you heard that. She obviously hates the health care bill. Now, what do most Americans think?"
Bu Garner does not point out that the woman is obviously misinformed. Sarah Gardner is obviously also ignorant because she failed to say that in fact the law makes it easy for poor people to get coverage with huge subsidies, which is the main point of the law! The quoted woman was responding to her perception of the law, and not the actual law, which expands Medicaid coverage for poor people up to 133% of the poverty level, and then has enormous tax credit subsidies based on ability to pay. The woman who thought it made poor people buy insurance coverage for sure did not know about this.
But what is worse, Sarah Gardner apparently did not know about it. If she did, good reporting standards would have obliged her to report that the woman's response was not to the actual law, but her erroneous perception of the law. Which is another story worth covering - how the law has been distorted by its opponents. Gardner ought to be ashamed of herself, but probably she will rationalize this as just reporting the facts, and that she is not obligated to state additional facts, and that's how everyone else reports it.
Frank Newport is also at fault, and Gardner should have known this as well. When statistics are quoted that most Americans oppose the law, what is usually left out is that in fact among the majority who oppose the law most do not actually understand it, and there are those who think that it did not go far enough, usually meaning they would have preferred a single payer system. So actually, if the question was asked as to whether someone believes the new law is an improvement, most people would say yes. This completely changes the picture.

Wow - you and many others COMPLETELY missed the point of the story. The story was about people's perceptions of the bill, NOT the actual bill. It was not part of the story to jump to the defense of the bill. Before you jump on me as being against this bill, nope I am all for it - everyone should have some, even minimal coverage esp in the even of accident etc. Before I continue, can I ask where you got your journalism degree? It must be from a prestigious institution as it has afforded you the opportunity to weigh in on what constitutes "poor journalsim" and "good reporting standards". Apparently it didn't include nuance/subtlety detection 101, as you "fault" Frank Newport for not coming right out and saying "the average person on the street is an uninformed dolt". Listen again (carefully) he did! Again - not his job to defend bills or take sides or insult the "man on the street". And not the mission of this story to jump to it's defense either - they would just be preaching to the choir anyway, from what I am seeing here. Good lord folks, you would think that through this story NPR came out against O care! :-) Seriously, I occasionally check out the Fox News website to see what the crazies are up to and some of the shrill comments I am seeing here remind me of a liberal version of that...

Your report on the public's opinion on the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) pointed out the reason so many people object to it. The interview with the woman in LA who believes it will force her to have to pay for expensive insurance demonstrates the ignorance people have been fed about the bill. The truth is that the Act provides increased coverage to more poor people who otherwise can not afford medical care and subsidies for those who need it. And the bills provides for ways people can get the cost of insurance down to more affordable levels through the insurance exchanges. Your report to be complete should have made mention of these truths. Good journalism, which is usually found on your program, should correct misconceptions with accurate reporting of facts.
I volunteer in a free clinic for the uninsured and see the cost that the lack of accessibility creates. Please correct incorrect statements with accurate ones so the lies the opponents of this bill are not allowed to continue. Remember, other surveys have show that people like the individual parts of the Act, but have been misled to think the bill is something different than it is.

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