Almost half of likely voters view healthcare reform unfavorably

Public support for healthcare reform ticked downward in October, suffering from an especially negative opinion among likely voters.

Almost half of likely voters in next month’s elections said they have an unfavorable view of Democrats’ signature legislation — a more negative take on healthcare reform than the general public.

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Forty-nine percent of likely voters said they have an unfavorable opinion of the healthcare bill, according to the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, compared to 39 percent who have a favorable opinion. Twelve percent of likely voters said they have no opinion.

The poll suggests that the voters who are most likely to turn out to vote in 15 days are voters who tend to be more against the healthcare bill, another factor pointing to a potentially difficult set of midterm elections for Democrats.

An earlier poll by The Hill also pointed to problems for Democrats with healthcare. In The Hill poll of 12 battleground districts won by freshman House Democrats in 2008, a majority of those surveyed favored repeal. Even 23 percent of Democrats polled in the dozen districts favored repeal.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has been keeping tabs monthly on the public's approval for the legislation since President Obama signed it into law in March. The group's October poll lends insight into how likely voters view the legislation, since previous iterations had tended to only track its general popularity.

Both parties have staked a good deal of their electoral fortune on the healthcare fight, more than half a year after the legislation was enacted.

Republicans have vowed to try to repeal the healthcare bill and replace it with the reforms they'd long proposed in its stead. Democrats have sought to make political hay of that GOP vow by trying to highlight popular benefits included in the bill that would be threatened by a full repeal of the bill.

The bill's favorability with the general public dipped in October after ticking upward in September. Forty-two percent of U.S. adults say they favor the legislation, while 44 percent have an unfavorable opinion of it. (Americans approved of the bill, 49-40 percent, in September.)

The dimming approval numbers for the healthcare reform bill have caused a number of Democratic candidates, especially those in centrist or conservative states or districts, to actively run away from the bill, even if they’d initially supported it.

Democratic Reps. Gene Taylor (Miss.) and Bobby Bright (Ala.) have said they’re interested in repealing the healthcare bill, and West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat locked in an increasingly competitive Senate race, has also opened the door to supporting a full repeal of the legislation.

Still, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has maintained as recently as several weeks ago that the healthcare reform effort she helped spearhead in the House would be an advantage for her party when voters head to the polls in 15 days.

“It is definitely an advantage for us, because we have aligned ourselves with those who passed Social Security, Medicare and now healthcare for all Americans, not as a right, but a privilege,” the Speaker told NPR last month in an interview to mark the six-month anniversary of the bill.

The poll also found that support for repealing the legislation was just slightly higher among registered voters than among the general public. Thirty-one percent of registered voters said the law should be repealed as soon as possible, while 28 percent of U.S. adults said the same.

Another poll, conducted earlier this month by Bloomberg News, found that some of the most central pieces of the legislation fare poorly with the public. Sixty-two percent of voters said in that poll that the tax on high-value insurance plans (the so-called “Cadillac tax”) should be repealed, and 51 percent favored repeal of the requirement that each individual have health insurance.

The poll, conducted Oct. 5-10, has a 3 percent margin of error for the general public and a 3 percent margin of error for registered voters.

This story was updated at 4:23 p.m.

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