Obama Lost National Debate Over Government-Run Health Care Even as He Won Congressional Passage of Obamacare, According to New Gallup Data

November 19, 2010 - 1:50 PM

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama at a White House press conference on Nov. 3, 2010, the day after the midterm election. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

(CNSNews.com) - President Barack Obama lost the national debate over government-run health care in the first 22 months of his presidency even as he persuaded a Democrat-majority Congress to enact legislation that forces Americans to purchase government-approved health insurance plans as of 2014 and that subsidizes that purchase for people earning less than 400 percent of the poverty level.

In a newly released poll conducted Nov. 4-7--just days after voters removed Obama’s party from its majority in the U.S. House of Representatives--Gallup asked 1,021 American adults: “Which of the following approaches for providing health care in the United States would you prefer: a government run health care system, or a system based mostly on private health insurance?”

Thirty-four percent said they would prefer a government run health care system, and 61 percent said they would prefer a system based mostly on private insurance.

In previous years, Gallup has asked a question with slightly different wording on the same issue: “Which of the following approaches for providing health care in the United States would you prefer: replacing the current health care system with a new government run health care system, or maintaining the current system based mostly on private health insurance?"

In a poll conducted Nov. 13-16, 2008, just days after Obama was elected, 41 percent of Americans told Gallup they would prefer to replace the current health care system with a new government run health care system. Only 49 percent said then they preferred to maintain the current system based mostly on private insurance.

By November 2009, in the heat of the debate over the health-care legislation that was then moving through Congress, only 32 percent told Gallup they wanted to replace the current system with a government run system while 61 percent said they wanted to keep the current system.

President Obama signed his health-care legislation in March, but since then there has been no attrition in the 61 percent of Americans who say they do not want a government run health care system but want to keep the current system based mostly on private insurance.

Neither has there been any apparent attrition in Obama’s conviction that the government needs to be more deeply involved in running the health care system.

In a pre-election, October interview with Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, President Obama countered Stewart’s suggestion that the president's approach to health-care legislation had been “timid” by arguing that Obamacare was as significant as any legislation ever enacted and noting that it represented the beginning, not the end, of “progressive” efforts to transform the U.S. health care system.

“This is what I think most people would say is as significant a piece of legislation as we've seen in this country's history,” Obama told Stewart. “But what happens is, it gets discounted because the presumption is: Well, we didn't get 100 percent of what we wanted. We got 90 percent of what we wanted. So, let's focus on the 10 percent we didn't get as opposed to the 90 percent that we did.”

“If the point, Jon, is that overnight we did not transform the healthcare system, that point is true,” said Obama.

“When we promised during the campaign, ‘Change you can believe in,’ it wasn't ‘Change you can believe in in 18 months,’ it was ‘Change you can believe in, but, you know what, we're going to have to work for it,’” said Obama.

“Look, when Social Security was passed, it applied to widows and orphans, and it was a very restricted program, and over time, that structure that was built ended up developing into the most important social safety net that we have in our country,” said Obama.

“The same is true on every piece of progressive legislation, every bit of progress that we've made,” he said.