Gallup: Healthcare reform surges in popularity

Following passage, an overnight poll finds a sharp, rapid and positive shift among voters

By Joe Conason

Published March 23, 2010 8:24PM (EDT)

Has public opinion on a major issue ever spun around so swiftly? Having predicted that the negative voter reaction to healthcare reform will shift before November -- if only because Democrats finally stood up for their convictions -- I must admit that the pace of change reported by Gallup today is a bit stunning. 

Democracy Corps pollsters Stan Greenberg and James Carville  traced significant movement on the issue away from the Republicans just before Sunday night’s vote -- as Greenberg  explained in a New York Times Op-Ed yesterday - but the trend seems to be picking up speed.

The daily tracking poll posted on the Gallup site is subject to greater error than a three-day poll, but it nevertheless indicates a sharp reversal almost overnight.

Nearly half of the respondents say that passage of healthcare reform is "a good thing," while 40 percent say it is a "bad thing," with the remaining 11 percent offering no opinion. A separate question that sought "emotional responses" found 50 percent answering that they feel "enthusiastic" or "pleased" about the legislation, while 23 percent say they feel "disappointed" and 19 percent are "angry."

Unsurprisingly, Democrats are elated, Republicans are mad, and independents are closely divided. Gallup offers no additional cross-tabulations, but USAToday’s  story provides a few more details:

The largest single group, 48%, calls the bill "a good first step" that should be followed by more action on health care. An additional 4% also have a favorable view, saying the bill makes the most important changes needed in the nation's health care system.

To be sure, the nation remains divided about the massive legislation that narrowly passed the House late Sunday and was signed by Obama in an emotional East Room ceremony Tuesday morning. The Senate began debate Tuesday afternoon on a package of "fixes" demanded by the House.

The findings are encouraging for the White House and congressional Democrats, who get higher ratings than congressional Republicans for their work on the issue. The poll shows receptive terrain as the White House and advocacy groups launch efforts to sell the plan, including a trip by Obama to Iowa on Thursday.

No one gets overwhelmingly positive ratings on the issue, but Obama fares the best: 46% say his work has been excellent or good; 31% call it poor. Congressional Democrats get an even split: 32% call their efforts good or excellent; 33% poor.

The standing of congressional Republicans is more negative. While 26% rate their work on health care as good or excellent, a larger group, 34%, say it has been poor. 

Joe Conason

Joe Conason is the editor in chief of To find out more about Joe Conason, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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