Americans still evenly split on health-care law, poll shows

By Kyle Dropp
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 15, 2010; 11:27 AM

A Florida federal judge's ruling this week that 20 states can proceed with parts of a lawsuit challenging the health-care overhaul comes as the law continues to sharply divide voters.

The latest Washington Post-ABC News shows an electorate still about evenly split on the health-care law: 46 percent of voters for it, 50 percent against. Moreover, more than three-quarters of those who oppose the changes say they support an effort to cancel the health-care reform measures.

In the days after President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) into law, it had similar support among voters - 46 percent agreed with the administration's changes, according to a Post-ABC poll taken in late March.

Support for the bill, though, dips lower among those who are most likely to turn out in November, with opposition rising to 55 percent of likely voters in the early October Post-ABC poll.

As they were in March, older Americans are skeptical of the reforms. Four in 10 adults ages 50 and up support the changes, compared with more than half of younger Americans.

"I think it hurts small business," said Ray Thompson, 52, of Toledo, Ohio, in a follow-up interview. "It's a heavy-handed government mandate."

Joe Shedal, 50, of Telford, Pa., expressed concern that the health-care overhaul would negatively affect the coverage he receives through Medicare.

"I just feel that, yes, there's a problem with health care, but the solution is not to put it in the hands of government," Shedal said. "The government can't run itself. How's it going to run health care?"

In the poll, 40 percent of Americans oppose the bill and support an effort to repeal it, either by a new vote in Congress or through the courts.

That's down a slim six points from March. Today, 58 percent of overhaul opponents strongly support an effort to cancel the changes, down 13 points from March.

"Just scrap the whole thing and be honest," said Sharron Harelson, 61, of Atkins, Ark. "It was hard for us to understand anything that was coming out of Washington," Harelson continued. "Until they [politicians] can explain it, to regular people who aren't lawyers or politicians. . . . I can't support it."

Thompson, who works in administration at a small business, concurs: "I think either [the bill] can be modified or completely done away with."

But Brian Pitts, 52, of Albany, Ga., supports the overhaul. "If you didn't have this bill, a lot of people wouldn't be getting care," Pitts said, citing people with preexisting conditions who were unable to receive coverage.

Republicans, who are poised to make major gains in Congress next month, have made overturning Obama's signature issue a top priority.

With the intense legislative battle over health care in the rear view mirror for now, most, but fewer, people hold strong views on the subject. Some 26 percent of those polled say they "strongly support" the changes, down six points from March. Intense opposition has also trimmed from 40 to 35 percent, with strong opposition among seniors dropping a dozen points since March.

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