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Kaiser Health Tracking Poll — September 2010

Six months since the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and a month and a half before the midterm congressional elections, Kaiser’s September Health Tracking Poll finds the public remains divided on the new law. Public confusion over the new health law has risen to its highest point since April.

The tug of war for public opinion on health reform continues this month, with approval and disapproval staying in the same relatively narrow band each has occupied since passage even as favorable views regain a small upper hand, 49 percent favorable vs. 40 percent unfavorable. Opinion is more closely divided among this fall’s likely voters (46 percent vs. 45 percent), and opponents of the law continue to hold their views more emphatically than supporters. Overall, 26 percent of Americans believe the law should be repealed.

Six weeks from the contentious midterm elections, confusion over the new health law has risen to its highest point since April, with 53 percent of Americans saying they are confused about health reform, up 8 percentage points from August. Misperceptions about the law also persist: for example, three in ten seniors believe the law will permit government panels to make decisions about end-of-life care for Medicare recipients (often referred to as “death panels”).

When it comes to voter turnout and vote choice, the September tracking survey suggests that, at least at this point, health reform is not playing a major role or providing a decisive advantage to one party’s position over the other.

Meanwhile, while the views of independents have consistently appeared to be hovering midway between the majority support expressed by Democrats and the majority opposition expressed by Republicans — a balance waiting to tilt the public’s views decisively in favor or opposed once and for all — an analysis of the September tracking data reveals that in fact most independents look much like their partisan brethren in having embraced or rejected the new law. Roughly a third of independents say they lean toward the Democrats, and in this group health reform receives majority support. The opposite holds true for those independents who say they lean toward the Republicans, leaving only a relatively small sliver in the middle.

Findings (.pdf)

Chartpack (.pdf)

Toplines (.pdf)

Data Note: Health Reform and the Tea Party Movement