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Washington Post poll finds split on health-care law remains deep

More people see the changes as making things worse, rather than better, for the country's health-care system, for the quality of their care and, among the insured, for their coverage. Majorities in the new poll also see the changes as resulting in higher costs for themselves and for the country.

Most respondents said reform will require everyone to make changes, whether they want to or not; only about a third said they believe the Democrats' contention that people who have coverage will be able to keep it without alterations. And nearly two-thirds see the changes as increasing the federal budget deficit, with few thinking the deficit will shrink as a result. The Congressional Budget Office said the measure will reduce the deficit.

About half of all poll respondents said the plan creates "too much government involvement" in the health-care system, a concern that is especially pronounced among Republicans.

Senior citizens, who typically make up about one in five midterm voters, represent a particularly valuable but tough audience on this issue. More than six in 10 of those 65 or older see a weaker Medicare system as a result of the changes to the health-care system. Overall, seniors tilt heavily against the changes, with 58 percent opposed and strong opponents outnumbering strong supporters by a 2-to-1 ratio.

At the same time, seniors who say they understand the upcoming changes are much more apt to back the new law than those who say the plan is too complicated.

Support for the changes is significantly higher among Democrats and independents who say they understand the legislation than it is among those who do not. Republicans are solidly opposed, regardless of whether they think they understand the changes.

The overall political landscape continues to look favorable for Republicans to make gains in November, with six in 10 Americans seeing the country as pretty seriously off on the wrong track and that broad dissatisfaction likely to fall hardest on incumbents.

At this point, more poll respondents said they are likely to oppose a lawmaker who backed the president's health-care initiative than said they would support such a candidate (32 percent to 26 percent), with more passion again on the negative side. Forty percent said the health-care vote will make no difference in their decision this fall.

The Democrats hold a 13-point advantage over the GOP when it comes to dealing with health care in general. That's a significant, but far slimmer, lead than they carried into the 2006 elections, which returned them to the majority. Similarly, Democratic advantages on the economy, taxes, immigration and the deficit are all severely attenuated.

Republicans now have a six-point edge when it comes to handling terrorism, a historical GOP strong point that Democrats had neutralized. Democrats are favored on Afghanistan policy, an area that remains a strong point for the president.

The largest Democratic lead in the new poll is on energy policy, where the party holds a 49 to 32 percent advantage.

A big concern for both parties may be that significant numbers in the poll -- 10 percent or more -- see neither as more trustworthy on each of those major issues.

Public approval of Obama's handling of health care has rebounded somewhat, but a slim majority continues to disapprove of the way he is dealing with issue No. 1: the economy. About half of respondents (49 percent) said Obama won't be a factor in their vote in November. The rest split about equally between saying they would vote in part to express support for the president and saying it would be to show opposition.

The poll was conducted March 23 to 26 among a random national sample of 1,000 adults; the results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

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