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Voters Reject Deficit Spending for Healthcare Reform

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, August 5, 2009

An independent national poll released this morning reveals broad public concern and skepticism about the ability of Congress and President Barack Obama to pass meaningful healthcare reform without deficit spending.

The Quinnipiac University poll of 2,409 registered voters nationwide, taken from July 24-Aug. 3, also shows that Obama's handling of healthcare reform has seen significant public opinion slippage in the last month.

"President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress appear to be losing the public relations war over their plan to revamp the nation's healthcare system," says Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Americans are more willing to scrap a healthcare overhaul than they are to increase the deficit in order to produce such legislation. That's a bad omen for the White House and Congressional leadership as they try to sell their plan to the country this month before the vote counting gets serious on Capitol Hill in September."

By a canyon-wide 55% to 35% margin, voters told Quinnipiac researchers that they are more worried that Congress will spend too much money and add to the deficit than it will not act to overhaul the healthcare system. By a 57% to 37% margin, voters say healthcare reform should be dropped if it adds "significantly" to the deficit.

By a whopping 72% to 21% margin, voters do not believe that President Obama will keep his promise to overhaul the healthcare system without adding to the deficit. American voters also disapprove (52% to 39%) of the way Obama is handling healthcare, down from 46%-42% approval July 1, with 60%-34% disapproval from independent voters. Voters say 59%-36% that Congress should not pass healthcare reform if only Democratic members support it.

The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points.

Voters were split 39%-41% on whether the president's healthcare plan will improve or hurt the quality of healthcare in the nation, with 14% saying it won't make a difference.

Only 21% of voters say the plan will improve the quality of care they receive, while 36% say it will hurt their quality of care and 39% say it will make no difference.