When one takes a cursory look at where various groups in the nation stand on President Obama’s health care legislation – now under review by the U.S. Supreme Court – it appears the country is split along party and race lines.
A new poll conducted by Princeton Research Associates shows 75 percent of Democrats support the Obama position, and 86 percent of Republicans oppose it, with so-called independents evenly split.
The racial divide is similar. Sixty-eight percent of non-Whites “strongly favor” or “somewhat favor” the overall health care law, with only 18 percent opposed. Whites are far more divided, with 33 percent favoring Obama’s law, and 47 percent opposed.
What’s in the plan?
These numbers are, however, heavily influenced by what people think is in the law, and what side they think they should be on, based on their larger loyalties. It is doubtful that majorities on either side of the issue actually understand most of the law’s many provisions, some of which do not go into effect for several years. Therefore, many of the respondents are using the poll to register their broader preference for or against the incumbent president and his party.
It is no surprise that majorities of Whites and super-majorities of Republicans oppose Obamacare, as Republicans call it, and more than two thirds of non-Whites and three-quarters of Democrats support healthcare reform, as Obama calls it.
However, most people do understand the central element of the law: the “individual mandate” that forces nearly everyone to buy health insurance from private companies, or face a fine.
The new poll shows that no significant constituency supports Obama’s individual mandate, with only 28 percent of the overall public favorable to the scheme. Even non-Whites, two-thirds of whom claim to support Obama on health care in general, balk at mandatory purchase of insurance from private companies.
Fifty-three percent of non-Whites give thumbs down to the individual health insurance mandate, as do 71 percent of Whites. More Democrats are opposed to Obama’s individual mandate than favor it: 48 to 44 percent. And Republicans are off the scale in opposition, at 15 to 1.
So if the core of the Obama health care plan is the individual mandate, as both the administration and the Republicans contend in their arguments before the Supreme Court, then Obama has based his plan on a scheme that nobody likes – even his most loyal supporters.
There’s another interesting aspect to the new poll. It shows that only a hard core of one in four people want to tamper with Medicare as the Republicans do, with around two-thirds of all racial groups opting to keep the program the way it is, with the government paying doctors and hospitals directly for the service they provide to seniors.
Taken together, the poll indicates strong support for the core elements of the U.S. healthcare safety net, and rejection of private schemes, including Obama’s mandatory purchase of insurance from private companies. It appears that most Americans would rather have the option of dependable, direct health care paid for by the government – which was the case at the beginning of 2009, before Obama unveiled his health care scheme, when 60 percent and more of the American people favored single-payer health care.
But Obama maneuvered them into a something they hadn’t asked for, and which, three years later, nobody wants.
Glen Ford is executive editor of BlackAgendaReport.com.