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Published November 23, 2010, 12:00 AM

Poll: Majority of Americans want to keep health care law

WASHINGTON – A majority of Americans want the Congress to keep the new health care law or actually expand it, despite Republican claims that they have a mandate from the people to kill it, according to a new McClatchy Newspapers-Marist poll.

By: McClatchy Newspapers, INFORUM

WASHINGTON – A majority of Americans want the Congress to keep the new health care law or actually expand it, despite Republican claims that they have a mandate from the people to kill it, according to a new McClatchy Newspapers-Marist poll.

The post-election survey showed that 51 percent of registered voters want to keep the law or change it to do more, while 44 percent want to change it to do less or repeal it altogether.

Driving support for the law: Voters by margins of 2-1 or greater want to keep some of its best-known benefits, such as barring insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. One thing they don’t like: the mandate that everyone must buy insurance.

At the same time, the survey showed that a majority of voters side with the Democrats on another hot-button issue, extending the Bush era tax cuts that are set to expire Dec. 31 only for families making less than $250,000.

The poll also showed the country split over ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy prohibiting gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, with 47 percent favoring its repeal and 48 percent opposing it.

The results signal a more complicated and challenging political landscape for Republicans in Congress than their sweeping midterm wins suggested. Party leaders call the election a mandate, and vow votes to repeal the health care law and to block an extension of middle-class tax cuts unless tax cuts for the wealthy also are extended.

“The political give-and-take is very different than public opinion,” said Lee M. Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., which conducted the poll. “On health care, there is a wide gap between public opinion and the political community.”

Far from the all-or-nothing positions staked out by politicians and pundits, Americans are more divided about the health care law.

On the side favoring it, 16 percent of registered voters want to let it stand as is.

Another 35 percent want to change it to do more. Among groups with pluralities who want to expand it: women, minorities, people younger than 45, Democrats, liberals, Northeasterners and those making less than $50,000 a year.

Lining up against the law, 11 percent want to amend it to rein it in.

Another 33 percent want to repeal it.

Among groups with pluralities favoring repeal: men, whites, those older than 45, those making more than $50,000 annually, conservatives, Republicans and tea party supporters.

Independents, who swung to the Republicans in the Nov. 2 elections, are evenly divided on how to handle the health care law, with 36 percent for repealing it and 12 percent for restraining it – a total of 48 percent negative – while 34 percent want to expand it and 14 percent want to leave it as is – also totaling 48 percent.

They turn a solid thumbs down on the law’s mandate that every American must buy insurance, with 65 percent calling that unconstitutional and 29 percent saying it should be kept.

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