Poll shows opposition to health care overhaul declining

By David S. Hilzenrath
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 29, 2010; 12:02 AM

Opposition to the landmark health care overhaul declined over the past month, to 35 percent from 41 percent, according to the latest results of a tracking poll, reported Thursday.

Fifty percent of the public held a favorable view of the law, up slightly from 48 percent a month ago, while 14 percent expressed no opinion about the measure, according to the poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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The approval level was the highest for the legislation since it was enacted in March, after a divisive year-long debate. In April, the poll found 46 percent in favor and 40 percent opposed.

Though the legislative battle is over, the political tug-of-war continues. Democrats and Republicans have been fighting to shape public opinion on the issue in hopes of influencing the fall elections.

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Among Republicans, opposition to the law remained steady at 69 percent, but the intensity of that opposition ticked upward. Fifty-three percent of Republicans said they had a "very unfavorable" opinion of the law this month, up from 50 percent in June.

Independents, who can tip the balance in elections, split 48 percent to 37 percent in favor, compared with 49 percent to 41 percent a month earlier. The intensity of opinion among this group showed little change; just less than a fifth expressed a very favorable view, and just more than a quarter expressed a very unfavorable view.

The legislation was passed by Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and was signed into law by a Democratic president, and over the past month Democratic support for the legislation grew. Seventy-three percent of Democrats expressed a favorable opinion, up from 69 percent in June. Fifteen percent of Democrats expressed an unfavorable opinion, down from 19 percent in June.

A third of Democrats held a very favorable opinion of the health care overhaul.

The public remains split into rough thirds as to whether the law will leave their own family better off, worse off or unchanged, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported.

The poll found that misconceptions about the legislation persist, including the "death panel" falsehood propagated by opponents of the legislation.

"A year after the town meeting wars of last summer, a striking 36% of seniors said that the law 'allowed a government panel to make decisions about end of life care for people on Medicare', and another 17% said they didn't know," Kaiser Family Foundation chief executive Drew Altman wrote.

The survey of 1,504 adults was conducted from July 8 through July 13 and, for the broadest categories of respondents, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, the Kaiser Family Foundation said.

The foundation, which conducts research on health care policy, is not associated with the Kaiser Permanente health plan.

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