POLL: Obama's Speech Doesn't Turn the Tide

Medical Malpractice and Medicare

Some proponents of reform have described a public option as an essential element; Obama, on the other hand, has not. And as noted, without a public option, this poll finds support for reform's remaining elements at 50-42 percent. (Despite some threats, support among liberals is nearly as high without a public option as with one.)

OTHER ELEMENTS – Another element of reform, limiting medical malpractice awards, is popular, with 63 percent support, up from 57 percent in June. On the other hand it's back to a split on taxing insurance companies when they sell high-end, so-called Cadillac insurance policies – 45 percent in favor, 48 percent opposed. And if the insurance companies passed on the tax by raising the prices of those policies, opposition soars to 71 percent.

Some of the compunctions are considerable. Sixty-five percent think reform would increase the deficit. Forty percent think it'd weaken Medicare, about twice the 22 percent who think it'd strengthen that popular program. Among seniors, 56 percent think reform would weaken Medicare, explaining why opposition to reform peaks in their ranks.

Perhaps most basic are these: Americans divide, 35-38 percent, on whether reform would make the quality of care for most people better or worse (the rest expect no change). More think it would make their own care worse rather than better, by 32-16 percent; their own costs worse, by 40-20 percent; their own coverage worse, by 37-11 percent. Even among the uninsured, just 51 percent think reform would improve their own coverage. And none of these advanced after the president's address.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Aug. 13-17, 2009, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents. Results for the full sample have a 3.5-point error margin. Click here for a detailed description of sampling error. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

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