Public doesn’t want health care reform to die

PUBLIC DOESN’T WANT HEALTH CARE REFORM TO DIE…. There was a lot of noteworthy data in the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, much of it discouraging, but let’s first highlight the numbers on health care, because some of the results were surprising.

Asked whether they support or oppose the Democratic health care reform plan, 46% approve of the proposal, while 49% do not. That’s not great, but the numbers are pretty close to parity and the 46-49 split were the best since November. It’s fair to say that reform at least isn’t getting less popular, and may be starting to improve a bit.

Also note that clear majorities support provisions such as employer mandates, individual mandates, and a ban on discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions.


Of particular interest, though, was the question reflected in this chart. Respondents were asked, “Do you think lawmakers in Washington should keep trying to pass a comprehensive health care reform plan, or should give up on comprehensive health care reform?” A 63% majority want policymakers to keep trying. Among independents, the results were 56-39 in favor of perseverance.

At a minimum, that’s something to build on. For some weak-kneed Democrats, there’s obviously a temptation to run away from health care as quickly as possible. But even now, despite all that’s occurred, the American mainstream clearly wants to see policymakers keep working towards getting a bill done.

Also note, the blame for the existing acrimony is falling squarely on the GOP. Poll respondents were asked whether the president is doing enough to compromise with Republicans, and a plurality believe Obama has been doing the right thing. When the same question was asked about the GOP, a 58% majority believe Republicans aren’t doing enough to cooperate with the White House.

Even 44% of rank-and-file Republicans believe their own party’s lawmakers should be doing more to work with the president.

We’ll have more soon on other aspects of the poll, but on health care, these results aren’t bad.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.