Health care reform, the biggest piece of social legislation passed since 1965, is now the law of the land. This historic achievement is getting some positive reactions from the public now that the painful congressional process has finally ended and there is an actual piece of legislation to consider. Of course, much of the public is still uncertain about what exactly is in the bill and how it will affect them, but these early reactions are nevertheless encouraging. At minimum, they suggest that conservative predictions of a massive public uprising against health care reform were decidedly overwrought.
Consider these findings from a Gallup poll taken right after the House passed the Senate reform bill. In that poll, 49 percent said they thought it was a good thing that Congress passed a bill restructuring the nation’s health care system, compared to 40 percent who thought that was a bad thing. This plurality possibly reflects some individuals moving toward supporting the bill who previously had opposed it because it didn’t go far enough (about 10 to 15 percent of the public). This group, whose opposition to health care bills in Congress has stemmed from progressive rather than conservative priorities, is a plausible candidate for early increases in support generated by the new legislation.
Reflecting this judgment, 50 percent in the Gallup poll were either enthusiastic (15 percent) or pleased (35 percent) the House passed the health care bill, compared to 42 percent who said they were disappointed (23 percent) or angry (19 percent).
Doesn’t sound like an uprising to me. In fact, we may wind up with something quite different that wasn’t in the conservative playbook: a gradual increase in support for the health care reform bill as more and more people become aware of what’s actually in the bill and start to benefit from it.
Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis go to the Media and Progressive Values page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.