Poll Watch: Americans Still Split on Health-Care Reform, Say It Will Affect 2010

On the eve of President Obama’s speech to Congress on health-care reform, there’s an interesting new poll out from Gallup that shows Americans are just as divided on the issue as they were a month ago. According to Gallup, 39 percent of those polled say they would direct their member of Congress to vote against a health-care reform bill, while 37 percent say they want their lawmaker to support it. Roughly a quarter of those polled—24 percent—say they still just don’t know what to think. That undecided number is actually down 5 percent from a month ago, which suggests people are slowly starting to make up their minds. Yet the most interesting statistic is this: despite all the confusion, a whopping 64 percent of those polled say how their lawmaker votes on the issue will be a “major factor” in how they vote in 2010. On the flip side, 21 percent say it will be a “minor factor,” while 13 percent say it won’t matter at all. So, let’s get this straight: Americans remain split over what to do about health care and a lot of folks are unsure how they want Congress and President Obama to act, but it’s still going to be a determining factor in how they vote in 2010?  If you’re a member of Congress up for reelection next year, those are pretty scary statistics.

Perhaps even more worrisome for lawmakers trying to determine their vote is how passionate each side is over health-care reform. Right now, opponents of reform seem to have the intensity. Among those who told Gallup they want their member of Congress to vote against health-care reform, 82 percent say their vote will be a “major factor,” while among those who want their lawmaker to support health-care reform, 62 percent say it will be a “major factor” for them in 2010. So if you’re a member of Congress, whom do you listen to? 

No doubt lawmakers—or at least their political consultants—will do a deep dive into what these numbers actually mean. The demographic breakdown on who supports reform versus those who don’t shows how complicated this issue could be on what is already looking like a very competitive 2010 election. Some of these stats we already know: older Americans are more skeptical of reform than younger people. But in one interesting number, polling among those 18 to 34 show they are evenly split about whether Congress should vote for or against a health-care overhaul (34 percent to 34 percent) while undecideds are not far behind (31 percent). Is that a troubling sign for Obama, who was propelled into office in part by younger people? Additional stats: More women than men support reform. Those with higher incomes are less supportive of reform (that has to include some major political donors to both parties), while a significant number of those polled making $30,000 or less are still undecided—a surprising development considering how much of this debate is aimed at talking about future generations.

But your Gaggler is most intrigued by the regional breakdown of who supports health care and who doesn’t: 45 percent of those on the East Coast say they want their lawmaker to vote for health-care reform; the Midwest is evenly divided 36 percent to 36 percent; while a plurality—43 percent of those polled—from the South say they want their lawmaker to vote against reform. Perhaps the most surprising number: 44 percent of West Coasters are against reform, while 37 percent are for it and 19 percent are undecided. The number is surprising considering Obama's recent West Coast swing to drum up support for health care. Did his efforts backfire?

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