How Can Obama Win Voters With the Summit? NEWSWEEK Poll Gives Some Clues.

President Obama's health-care summit on Thursday is meant to be a broad-based, bipartisan meeting to hash out the issues of health-care reform. But if the president really wants to make inroads with voters—52 percent of whom think he's done a poor job handling the issue—he should tailor his message to his Democratic base.

Why? Democrats and other groups who generally vote for the party are much more likely to change their opinion to support health-care reform when they learn more about it,according to a poll that NEWSWEEK conducted last week. Liberals, independents, and Democrats were much more likely to support reform after being read key components of the bill. Among Democrats support shot up 11 points, from 72 to 83 percent support. Liberals also went up 11 points (68 to 79 percent supportive), and independents 8 points (26 to 34 percent).

Conservatives and Republicans barely budged: conservative support inched up 3 points (23 to 26 percent), as did Republicans' approval (15 to 18 percent).

This drives home the point that, for conservative voters, the summit is not going to do a heck of a lot to sway opinion. This, as our cover story this week explains, is not just a framing issue for Republicans that can be talked away in debate. Rather, there are fundamental differences between the two parties' approaches and goals in reforming health care that linger after two months of congressional debate. A one-day health-care summit will not put these issues to rest.

But Obama does have an opportunity, and it's with voters who tend to side with him but are leery about health-care reform. They’re a significant minority: about a quarter of liberals, according to our poll, who support the ideological underpinnings of health-care reform yet have come out against the legislation. Among these voters, Obama can increase public support with a clear explanation of what his plan does. This is not to say that Obama should not incorporate Republican ideas into his legislation—in many ways, he already has—but, rather, that if he presents a clear explanation of health-care reform at the summit, he has a shot at increasing public support for the landmark legislation of his freshman year.

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