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Taking the public's pulse on business, politics, and culture, by KARLYN BOWMAN.
Healthcare Concerns 12/22/2009 

As the Senate prepares to pass healthcare legislation, Americans are growing more skittish. In two polls conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal in September and October, more people said it was better to pass President Obama’s healthcare plan and make its changes to the healthcare system than said it was better not to pass it and keep the current healthcare system. Those responses flipped in December, reflecting public anxiety about congressional action. In a December Quinnipiac poll, 31 percent said the president and Congress needed to address healthcare reform now and that they supported the proposals currently being considered, 28 percent said that the president and Congress needed to address the issue now, but that they didn’t support the current proposals, and 36 percent said they didn’t think the president and Congress should reform healthcare now. In a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, 50 percent said their own care would be better if the current system was left as it is, while 37 percent said their own care would be better if the changes became law.

Source: NBC News/Wall Street Journal, latest that of December 2009.

Terrorist Attacks 12/16/2009 

In a new Pew Research Center poll, a 44 percent plurality said there had not been another terrorist attack in the United States mostly because “the government is doing a good job protecting the country.” Eleven percent said it was mostly because America is an inherently difficult target for terrorists, and 35 percent said it was because we have been lucky. In the poll, 52 percent said the danger of attack on the United States with a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon was greater now than ten years ago, 35 percent said the danger was about the same, and 10 percent said the danger is less now than a decade ago.  

Source: Pew Research Center in association with the Council on Foreign Relations, October-November 2009.

Keep Us No.1 12/16/2009 

In a new Pew Research Center survey, 57 percent of respondents told surveyors that U.S. policies “should try to keep it so America is the only military superpower,” while 29 percent answered that it would be “acceptable if China, another country, or the European Union becomes as militarily powerful as the United States.” Pew also surveyed members of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Forty-nine percent of CFR members wanted to keep the United States number one militarily, but 43 percent said it was okay for another country to surpass us. In the poll, 46 percent of the general public wanted to keep defense spending about the same, 26 percent wanted to  increase it, and 23 percent wanted to decrease it.

Source: Pew Research Center in association with the Council on Foreign Relations, October-November 2009.

Globaloney 12/15/2009 

In a new Harris Interactive survey, 51 percent of Americans said they believed that “increased carbon dioxide and other gases released into the atmosphere will, if unchecked, lead to global warming and an increase in average temperatures.” This is the lowest response on the question since Harris began asking it 12 years ago. Other polls show a similar movement of opinion. Most of the new polls were taken before the Climategate scandal broke. Opinions are more polarized on the issue now than in the past: 28 percent of Republicans and 73 percent of Democrats answered affirmatively to the Harris question.

Source: Harris Interactive, November 2009.

Afghanistan and Obama 12/14/2009 

Most polls taken since President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan show support outweighing opposition for his proposal to send an additional 30,000 troops. Deep partisan divisions endure, with members of the president’s own party much less supportive of his proposal than Republicans. In the new CBS News/New York Times poll, 51 percent of Americans approved of sending the additional troops, while 43 percent disapproved. Slightly more than two-thirds of Republicans, 68 percent, supported the decision, while a majority of Democrats, 53 percent, opposed it. Thirty percent said things were going well in Afghanistan, a slight uptick from the 23 percent who gave that response in November. Four in ten said it was a good idea for the president to set a date to begin withdrawing troops, but 55 percent said it was not.

Source: CBS News/New York Times, December 2009.

Healthcare for the Uninsured 12/11/2009 

On five occasions this year, the Kaiser Family Foundation has asked people whether they “would be willing to pay more—either in higher health insurance premiums or higher taxes—in order to increase the number of Americans who have health insurance.” The responses of those who indicated that they would be willing to pay more have ranged from a low of 42 percent in the latest poll to a high of 51 percent in July. The responses from the new poll are shown in the graph. In follow-up questions Kaiser previously asked, those indicating they were willing to pay more have been willing to pay modest sums.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, November 2009.

Weighty Matters 12/09/2009 

In questions asked several times during the 1950s, an average of 49 percent* of those surveyed by Gallup said they wanted to stay at their present weight, while 35 percent wanted to lose weight. In Gallup’s latest poll, those responses have changed significantly. Fifty-five percent in November said they wanted to lose weight, 37 percent said they want to stay at their present weight, and 7 percent said they want to gain weight. Only 27 percent in the survey, however, said they were seriously trying to lose weight. Sixty-two percent in the poll reported being above their ideal weight.

*Note: The 1950s numbers are the average across five polls conducted in the 1950s. In 2009, 7 percent said they wanted to gain weight.

Source: The Gallup Organization, latest that of November 2009.

A Second Stimulus? 12/08/2009 

Polls taken earlier this year show that Americans do not favor a second stimulus. To take just one: in August, 29 percent of respondents told Gallup they favored a second stimulus plan, but 65 percent opposed one. One reason may be that Americans aren’t confident the first stimulus is working well. In a new poll conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post, 37 percent said the stimulus had helped, 39 percent said it had made no difference, and 23 percent said it had hurt.

Source: ABC News/Washington Post, November 2009.

Health Reform Costs 12/07/2009 

In three polls taken since August by Quinnipiac University, consistently large majorities have indicated that they believe President Obama cannot keep his promise that health insurance reform will not add to the federal budget deficit over the next decade. Only 19 percent in November said he could keep his pledge.

Source: Quinnipiac University, latest that of November 2009.

Publicly Funded Abortion 12/04/2009 

One of the contentious aspects of the healthcare reform bill involves public funding of abortions, and several pollsters have updated attitudes about it. Nearly all show opposition. In the CBS News question shown at right, 34 percent said that if the federal government provides subsidies or credits to help people buy health insurance, the plans should cover abortion procedures, but 56 percent say they should not. Republicans were strongly opposed 29 to 63 percent, as were independents, 28 to 62 percent. Democrats split evenly, 45 to 45 percent. In answering follow-up questions, 78 percent of those opposed to covering abortion services said they felt strongly about their view, 65 percent of those on the other side did.

Source: CBS News, November 2009.