Critical Condition

New Poll: Americans Don’t Believe Obama and Congress Share Their Priorities on Health Care

Data from the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll present a problem for President Obama and congressional Democrats as they try to sell their health-care plan: Americans do not believe Obama and Congress are paying sufficient attention to the cost issue, which is a top public concern. As this chart shows, while Americans are essentially split on what Obama and Congress should be most focused on addressing, they are not split on what the proposed health-care plan actually is addressing. Some 38 percent of Americans say the plan should be most focused on health-care costs, and only 13 percent say the president’s plan is most focused on this issue.

Elsewhere in the poll, a plurality (43 percent) of Americans say the current health-care plan focuses too much on “one goal over the other,” with 32 percent saying it is focused too much on covering the uninsured and only 8 percent saying there is too much focus on reducing costs. Concern over controlling costs has appeared in other polling (see, for example, Resurgent Republic); indeed, nearly twice as many voters saying controlling costs (44 percent) is more important than covering the uninsured (23 percent).

So Americans are clearly more concerned with costs than they perceive the current Democratic plan to be. How do they predict that plan will affect their own health-care costs? Nearly half (47 percent) say Obama’s plan will cause their costs to go up, while only 13 percent say it will cause their costs to go down, and 25 percent say their costs will stay the same.

These numbers indicate that Democrats still have a long way to go in selling Obamacare to a skeptical public.

Nicholas Thompson is vice president of the Tarrance Group, a Republican polling firm.