Bi-Weekly Public Opinion Roundup
by The Opportunity Agenda, Fri Feb 26, 2010 at 04:30:23 PM EST
The upcoming November elections draw near, both Democrats and Republicans are in an election state of mind. Both parties are focusing on trying to appease their voter base, while Obama and his administration push forward to make due on some promises such as health care reform and the repeal of the ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ military policy.
According to recent surveys 32% of Americans affiliate with the Democratic Party and 26% self-identify as Republican, while 39% identify as independents. Regarding the upcoming fall election, 34% of Americans say that they will definitely vote Democratic, while 37% say that they definitely will not.A majority of the public view both Democrats and Republicans unfavorably. 51% of the public view the Democratic Party negatively, and 57% for Republicans. Three- quarters of the American public disapproves of Congress, which is their highest disapproval rating since 1977. Additionally, half of the public would like to see the filibuster rule changed, in order limit back and forth politics of Congress, and ensure sure legislation actually can be passed.
Despite the disfavor, 44% of those surveyed in early February think that Obama would be better at handling health care reform, compared to the 27% who think republicans would do better
The long awaited reform of the health care system has seen a waning public interest. In early February, 43% of respondents were in support of the proposed changes to the health care system, and a majority of the public, 53%, opposed the changes that would be put in place by the passing of the health care reform bill in Congress. Whereas, in mid-January, 44% of respondents were in support and 52% opposed, this divide falls largely along partisan lines:
Democrats: 72% 24%
Republicans: 17 82
Independents: 38 57
As compared to polls in January, where 42% of Americans supported and 41% opposed the health care reform legislation. Comparatively, in a CNN poll conducted in late December 2009, 42% of American voters were in favor of the health care reform bill and 56% were opposed.
In response to these large partisan divides, Obama held a bipartisan health care forum on Thursday, where he tried to bridge party lines by encouraging politicians to engage in an “honest discussion."
Although more people oppose the health care reform bill in Congress than support it, when asked about individual elements of the health care reform, a majority voted that it was somewhat or extremely important to them that each measure get passed into law. Delay is passage of the bill may be attributed to such low public support, yet the values and reform elements behind the health care reform bill seem to resonate with the American public. A majority of the public fear surrounding reform is that under the new system health care will cost more (53%), quality of health care will be worse (50%), and that it will cost more (56%).
In a poll this month, when asked reasons why people support comprehensive health care reform, a majority cited:
• So more people can afford health insurance coverage
• In order to reduce the cost of health insurance
• To reform insurance company practice
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation
When asked why the people oppose health care legislation, the main reasons cited were that:
• The legislation would give government too big of a role.
•The U.S. can’t currently afford to pay for health care reform
•The health care reform involved too much deal-making and behind-the-door negotiations
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation
Before Thursday's forum, 54% of the public thought that is was either likely or somewhat likely that Congress will sign a health care reform bill (February). According to 59% of Americans, delay in passing health care reform was to blame on both Democrats and Republicans for "playing politics." 63% of the public wants lawmakers to keep trying to pass a comprehensive health care reform bill. In this poll, 45% of respondents said that the country as a whole would be better off if a health care reform bill was passed by Congress, and 58% would be disappointed or angry if it did not pass.
"DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL"
Another contentious issue is the potential repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, which Obama raised in his State of the Union address. A majority of Americans support allowing gay and lesbian people to serve in the military, according to various surveys conducted in the recent weeks. 66% of voters perceive the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy as discriminating.
The increase in acceptance over the years may be due to the fact that half of all respondents did not see homosexuality as a moral issue. Additionally, 63 % of Americans have a gay friend, family member or acquaintance. A GQRR survey found that in general, voters are becoming more accepting of gays and lesbians, citing that 30% of the public reported that they have become more accepting in the past decade. Additionally, 60 % of the American public regards that in the midst of two wars, the need for qualified service members gives precedence over sexual orientation.
The support for the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy is not a politically polarized issue, support crosses demographic and partisan affiliations.
According to a GQRR survey, 68 % of Democrats, 55 percent of independents, and 41 percent of Republicans support gay and lesbian people being able to serve in the military. Despite the cohesive majority that gays and lesbians should be able to serve, voters are more divided as to how the military would go about incorporating such reforms.
Source: CBS- NYT Poll
Although support for the repealing of the don’t ask, Don’t Tell policy is well in the majority,support tended to vary depending on the phrasing of the question. When respondents were asked whether they favor or oppose ‘gay men and lesbians’ serving in the military, they were much more likely to respond positively, than when the term homosexual was used.
Read more at The Opportunity Agenda website.