Just 41% of voters nationwide now favor the health care reform proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. That?s down two points from a week ago and the lowest level of support yet measured.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 56% are opposed to the plan.
Senior citizens are less supportive of the plan than younger voters. In the latest survey, just 33% of seniors favor the plan while 59% are opposed. The intensity gap among seniors is significant. Only 16% of the over-65 crowd Strongly Favors the legislation while 46% are Strongly Opposed.
For the first time ever, a slight plurality of voters now express doubt that the legislation will become law this year. Forty-six percent (46%) say passage is likely while 47% say it is not. Those figures include 18% who say passage is Very Likely and 15% who say it is Not at All Likely. Sixty percent (60%) are less certain.
Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Democrats say the plan is at least somewhat likely to become law. Sixty-one percent (61%) of Republicans disagree. Among those not affiliated with either major party, 34% say passage is at least somewhat likely while 58% say it is not.
The overall picture remains one of stability. Today?s record low support for the plan of 41% is just a point lower than the results found twice before. With the exception of a slight bounce earlier this month following the president?s nationally televised speech to Congress to promote the plan, support for it has remained in the low-to-mid 40s since early July. During that same time period, opposition has generally stayed in the low-to-mid 50s.
Intensity has been with the opposition from the beginning of the public debate. Currently, among all voters 23% Strongly Favor the legislative effort and 43% are Strongly Opposed.
Also, from the beginning of the debate, the has been a huge partisan divide. Currently 75% of Democrats favor the plan. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of Republicans are opposed, as are 72% of the unaffiliated.
Rasmussen Reports will continue to track support for the plan on a weekly basis (see day-by-day numbers).
As Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal: ?The most important fundamental is that 68% of American voters have health insurance coverage they rate good or excellent ? Most of these voters approach the health care reform debate fearing that they have more to lose than to gain.? A Rasmussen video report shows that 53% of those with insurance believe it?s likely they would have to change coverage if the congressional plan becomes law.
Despite strong efforts by the White House to counter that belief, including many comments by the president himself, there has been no change for months in the number who fear they will be forced out of their current coverage.
Polling released last week shows that 58% of uninsured voters favor passage of the health care plan. However, 35% of the uninsured are opposed. The divide fell largely along partisan and ideological grounds.
If the plan passes, 24% of voters say the quality of care will get better, and 55% say it will get worse. In August, the numbers were 23% better and 50% worse.
Fifty-four percent (54%) say passage of the plan will make the cost of health care go up while 23% say it will make costs go down. In August, 52% thought the plan would lead to higher costs, and just 17% thought it would achieve the stated goal of lowering costs.
While many credit or blame the town hall protests for building opposition to the plan, it appears they were simply a reflection of public opinion rather than a creator of it. This sense is confirmed by the fact that Obama?s approval ratings fell more in June and July before stabilizing in August.
One thing that did change during the month of August is that public perception of the protesters improved. Most voters came to believe that the purpose of the town hall meetings was for members of Congress to listen rather than speak. That?s partly because just 22% believe Congress has a good understanding of the legislation.
While some Democrats have charged that opposition to the president?s plan is based upon racism, just 12% of voters agree.
Voters overwhelmingly believe that every American should be able to buy the same health insurance plan that Congress has. Most favor limits on jury awards for medical malpractice claims and think that tort reform will significantly reduce the cost of health care. Forty-eight percent (48%) want a prohibition on abortion in any government subsidized program while 13% want a mandate requiring abortion coverage.
The health care debate has produced a difficult political environment for Democrats. Several incumbent Democratic senators currently are behind in their reelection bids including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada, Chris Dodd in Connecticut and Michael Bennet in Colorado. Republicans appear to have a better shot than expected at hanging on to the New Hampshire Senate seat, and GOP incumbents lead in both North Carolina and Iowa. The races for soon-to-be-vacant Senate seats in Missouri and Ohio are neck-and-neck, and longtime incumbent Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer polls under 50% against two potential 2010 challengers in California. Appointed Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand holds a very narrow lead over former Governor George Pataki in a hypothetical match-up for New York State?s 2010 Senate race.
Democrats also trail in the 2009 governor?s races in New Jersey and Virginia. Incumbent Democratic governors in Iowa and Ohio face tough challenges next year. In New York's gubernatorial race, the fate of the Democrats appears to depend on which of two nominees they choose.
The health care debate has become one focal point for voters frustrated by a string of government actions. Voters overwhelmingly opposed the bailout of the financial industry and the bailout and takeover of General Motors.