President's Pollster Sends Congressional Dems a Memo
Anne Kornblut today reports that in advance of President Obama's health-care address Wednesday before a joint session of Congress, his lead pollster, Joel Benenson, sent a memo to Democrats on Capitol Hill saying that support for a health-care overhaul is higher than it appears and will increase once the specifics are made clear. The full memo follows:
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Joel Benenson
RE: Public Opinion and the State of Health Insurance Reform
DATE: September 3, 2009
•By large margins, the American people support major reforms to the health care system.
--82% of Americans say that the U.S. health care system needs either fundamental changes (55%) or needs "to be rebuilt" (27%). (CBS, Aug. 31)
•A substantial majority of Americans believe that the problems in the country's health care system will eventually affect most Americans if they are not addressed.
--65% of Americans believe that the health care system's problems will eventually affect most Americans, while only 31% believe most Americans will continue to get good health care. (CNN, Aug. 31)
•The desire for change is driven, more than anything else, by a desire to see a crackdown on the worst practices of insurance companies:
--An overwhelming 92% say it is important to them personally that reform protects consumers in the health insurance market by requiring insurance companies to continue coverage at reasonable rates when they become ill. (Kaiser, Aug. 11)
--Two thirds (66%) say this is very important to them. (Kaiser, Aug. 11)
•There is little doubt that the moderate numbers of support for the President's health insurance reform plan are based in large part on a lack of awareness of the details of the plan.
--Only 31% say they "understand the health care reforms under consideration in Congress, while 67% say they find them confusing. (CBS, Aug. 31)
--Indeed, even Republican pollster Public Opinion Strategies found that 37% have no opinion yet on the President's plan, while 25% support and 37% oppose. (POS, August 13)
•When voters learn about the composition of the plan, support grows considerably.
--For instance, an NBC poll found that initially, only 36% said that the President's health care plan is "a good idea" while 42% say it is a bad idea. (NBC, Aug. 17).
--However, 53% said they favored the plan after hearing a short description of it that included:
* Requirements on insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions;
* Requiring all but the smallest employers to provide health coverage or pay a percentage of their payroll to help fund coverage for the uninsured
* Tax credits to help families and individuals to help them afford coverage
• As we enter this final stage of the health insurance reform debate, there is a significant opportunity to clearly define health insurance reform, replacing Republican misrepresentations with facts.
--Voters still see a strong need for reform.
--Large majorities believe that health care will get worse for most Americans if the health care system's problems are not addressed.
--When they learn more about the specifics of reform, support grows considerably.
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