More Americans oppose health-care law, but few want a total repeal

The House of Representatives passed landmark legislation to overhaul the nation's health-care system, approving a Senate bill and a separate package of amendments.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 18, 2011; 5:19 PM

Republican claims that the new health-care law will hurt the country's fragile economic recovery and inflate the deficit resonate with the public, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. But few opponents of the law advocate an immediate, wholesale repeal of the legislation.

Overall, Americans' views of the sweeping health-care overhaul, again under debate on Capitol Hill, remain firmly entrenched, with little change in stiff partisanship on the issue. Some 45 percent of those polled support the law, and 50 percent oppose it, numbers that exactly match their averages in Post-ABC polls going back to August 2009.

Three-quarters of Democrats support the new law, and 80 percent of Republicans oppose it; both are within a few points of their long-term averages. Independents tilt against the legislation, just as they have in most previous polls.

Republicans surveyed in the poll overwhelmingly see negative consequences if the law remains unchanged: 80 percent say it is likely to hurt the economy, 78 percent say it will increase the deficit, and 67 percent say it is apt to cost the country jobs. On each of these points, a majority of independents also take the pessimistic view.

On the economy generally and on jobs, most Democrats see long-term positive effects of the current law. But on the deficit, they divide down the middle, with 46 percent saying the law is more likely to increase the federal budget deficit and 46 percent saying it is more apt to decrease it.

Despite the relative popularity of the detractors' arguments, there is still little consensus among opponents about the right approach to amending the legislation.

Those who do not support the law are split about evenly between advocating for its complete repeal (33 percent), a partial repeal (35 percent) and a wait-and-see approach (30 percent). Fully two-thirds of all Republicans say they want the law repealed, at least partly.

(Recent polls on repeal yield very different answers depending on how the question is asked and how many answer categories respondents are offered. In every iteration of the question, a relatively split verdict on the law appears intact.)

As reported Monday, for the first time in Post-ABC polling, congressional Republicans are now tied with President Obama on the question of whom the public trusts when it comes to dealing with health-care change. Overall, 43 percent of Americans approve of the way the president is handling the issue, matching a career low; 52 percent disapprove.

Another factor in the debate is that a quarter of those who oppose the health-care law say the legislation is faulty because it did not go far enough, not because it pushed change too far.

The poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 13 to 16, among a random national sample of 1,053 adults. The results from the full poll have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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