Creating a Sustainable Majority for Health Care Reform

Over the last month, Democracy Corps and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner have conducted two national surveys and six focus groups exploring the dynamics of the battle over health care reform. The results show that the country wants reform but is largely uncommitted on the plans being developed in Washington.

The public is paying close attention and needs to learn some key things about the plan for reform in order to fully embrace it and create a sustainable majority for change. A plurality support President Obama and the Democrats’ plan for reform without any description, rising to 50 percent when it is described, even when financed by Medicare cuts and new taxes. Support for reform in the country has held up over the last three weeks, despite concerted Republican attacks on the “government takeover” of health care and the high costs of reform, suggesting the voters’ determination to find out whether the promise is real. Still supporters are more tentative than opponents and one in five say they need more information before they support the plan. On the critical issue of whether your family will be helped or hurt by the plan, the country is split down the middle.

Proponents and opponents of reform will be battling for the 35 percent of the electorate who are not satisfied with the health insurance system but satisfied with their personal insurance. These voters are “satisfied” with their personal care but are not happy about having traded off wages or gotten locked into a job because of health care, so they are nervous about change, but they want it. In this analysis we offer five strategic recommendations to buttress and deepen support for health care reform:

  1. Voters need to hear clearly what changes health care reform will bring. Never losing health insurance when you lose a job or get sick, power shifted from insurance companies to people, reduced costs for you and your family, business and country.
  2. Build a narrative around taking power away from the insurance companies and giving it to people.
  3. The president and reform advocates have to explain concretely the changes that will mean lower costs.
  4. Show all voters and seniors that there are benefits for them, including prescription drugs. 5. All of these points should be made with the dominant framework that continuing the status quo is unacceptable and unsustainable.

This analysis is based on a national survey of 1,013 2008 voters (890 likely 2010 voters) conducted May 28 through June 1, 2009, a national survey of 1,000 2008 voters (846 likely 2010 voters) was conducted June 19 through 22, 2009, 4 focus groups of swing voters conducted outside Chicago, Illinois, on June 10 and Denver, Colorado, on June 11; and two groups of seniors conducted outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 15.

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