As expected, there are plenty of new public opinion polls on health care and health care reform.  Though some people may already be tired of the topic, it is more important now than ever that we understand where the public stands on health care, how the trends in opinion are changing, and why.  Indirectly related to issues of healthcare is a new public opinion poll on capitalism, twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Health Care: the Individual Mandate and a Public Option
The October Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll found that 66% of those surveyed report that they are in favor of requiring all Americans to have health insurance (provided there is financial help for those who need it).  A majority of those surveyed (57%) also expressed support for the creation of a government-administered public health insurance option that would compete with private insurers.  In addition, a majority expressed that “it is more important than ever to take on health care reform now” (55%).

Who will be better Off with Health Care Reform?

According to the above Kaiser poll, a majority asserted that the country as a whole would be better off if Congress passed health care reform (53%).  A plurality (41%) expressed that individually, they or their families would be better off if Congress passed health care reform, with 27% expressing that they would be worse off.
The Partisan Split on Health Care Persists
As expected, a Gallup survey shows a significant partisan divide on the issue of whether it is the responsibility of the government to ensure healthcare coverage for all Americans.  Seventy-seven percent of Republicans assert that ensuring healthcare coverage for all Americans is not the responsibility of the government, and 74% of Democrats assert that it is.  Also of note is the trend for Republicans on this issue. Republicans have shown a precipitous drop in the past two years in affirming that it is the government’s responsibility, with a peak of 45% in 2001, down to 29% in 2008 and 21% in 2009.  In 2007, The Opportunity Agenda found that 72% of Americans feel strongly that health care should be considered a human right.  Focus group data from the same survey shows that many people believe the government should protect and provide for human rights through the expansion of government programs.   Yet others, arguing from a personal responsibility standpoint, believe the government ought to only protect human rights.  Historically most people, even those that are wary of government, place more value on the government when the economy is in decline.  With a Democrat currently in office, however, many Republicans may feel less comfortable with expanding the role of government.

Focus on Prevention may Assist Health Care Reform Efforts
A recent Greenberg Quinlan Rosner survey found a large majority (71%) support increased investment in prevention.  Prevention is defined as “providing people with information and resources and creating policies that help people make healthier decisions.”  Investment in prevention was ranked as a top priority in healthcare reform, receiving a score of 7.7 on a 10 point scale.  The only healthcare reform initiative that was ranked a higher priority was prohibiting health insurance companies from denying coverage based on age, medical history or pre-existing conditions.  In addition, 44% of people expressed the opinion that prevention will improve with the passage of healthcare reform, although this is the only category where more people expressed that reform would make things better as opposed to worse (other categories included insurance costs, quality of care, and choice of doctors and hospitals).

Public Opinion on the Current Health Bill and the 2010 Election
The Pew General Public Survey, found that 56% of voters that oppose the current health care bill are very enthusiastic about participating in the 2010 midterm election, as opposed to only 43% of voters who support the bill.  In general, those planning to vote Republican are very enthusiastic about the 2010 election (58%), compared to only 42% of those planning to vote Democratic reporting that they are very enthusiastic about the 2010 election.  This may have implications for voter turnout in the 2010 election.

Capitalism in America and Around the World
On a separate but related note, there is broad international dissatisfaction with capitalism, according to a new BBC World Service poll.  This is an interesting and pertinent finding, given the 20 year anniversary of the disintegration of the USSR.  The US did not differ greatly from other Western industrialized countries on the topic of the disintegration of the USSR, with 81% expressing that it is generally a good thing.  A majority of people in the US expressed that capitalism has problems and regulation could help (53%), although among the countries surveyed the US had the highest percentage of people expressing that free market capitalism works well and increased regulation would hinder its efficiency (25%).  Forty-three percent of people in France expressed that capitalism is “fatally flawed and a different economic system is needed”, compared to 13% of people in the US expressing the same.  All countries had majorities or pluralities in the middle category on this issue.

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