America On Health: Start Over Or You're Finished, Congress

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Lawmakers who back the health care bill are hurting their re-election chances, according to a new IBD/TIPP poll released Monday. The poll found that solid majorities prefer to see Congress start over and reject using "reconciliation" to pass the bill. A strong plurality would oppose candidates in the next election who supported the legislation.

The survey also found that the recent bipartisan health care summit featuring President Obama and congressional leaders turned more people off than it won over.

Raghavan Mayur, president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which conducted the poll for IBD, says it shows that people are dismayed with the way the debate has played out.

"There is a consensus among Americans that health care insur ance needs to reform," Mayur said. "But they differ on how to go about it. They don't like the process leading up to the current bill."

poll03082010The poll also suggests that the Democrats' recent renewed push to pass the Senate health care bill is not winning over the undecideds they wanted and may be pushing some toward the opposition.

"What you really want to be looking at are the independents," said Karlyn Bowman, a polling analyst for the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "The Republicans and Democrats are mirror images of each other, but the independents are leaning against it."

The poll found Americans split on the health care bill, with 42% supportive vs. 43% opposed. But just 24% strongly supported it vs. 33% strongly opposed. And 36% of independents strongly oppose it.

Asked if Congress should pass the current health bill or start fresh, respondents said "start fresh" by 61%-32%. For independents the split was 65%-24%.

On using the budget reconciliation process to circumvent a Senate filibuster to help pass the bill, 51% were opposed vs. 35% in favor. Independents dislike the idea by 57%-29%, with 39% opposing it strongly.

By 41%-27%, Americans were more likely to oppose than support lawmakers who voted for the current health care reform bill. Among independents the gap was slightly wider, at 42%-22%.

Health care is taking a toll on Obama's overall approval. The IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership Index dipped 0.2 in March to the neutral 50. Half of respondents say he's doing a bad job on health care, vs. 31% who say he's doing well. Those with strong opinions lean heavily negative.

The poll also found that last month's health care summit changed few minds. But of those it did, slightly more (22%) said it made them less likely to support the bill than to back it (18%). For independents it was 23%-15%.

Ed Howard, executive vice president of the nonprofit Alliance for Health Reform, says the IBD poll reflects others he has seen.

"It does seem to me to be quite clear that the public wants to start over," said Howard, who leans toward passing the Senate bill. Starting over would simply kill any momentum for reform, he says.

The IBD/TIPP poll was based on a sample of 903 adults, conducted March 1-7. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 points.

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