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'Individual Mandate' in Health Care Reform Law Still Widely Unpopular: Poll

But many wonder if politics will influence Supreme Court's ultimate decision, Harris Interactive/HealthDay survey finds

NORWALK, Conn., March 1, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Fifty percent of Americans oppose the "individual mandate" clause in the health care reform law that requires all Americans not already insured to purchase health insurance, according to a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll released today.

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Only 22 percent support the mandate.

But certain arguments in favor of the mandate seem to sway opinion back toward support of the measure. For example, 71 percent of the more than 3,000 adults polled in mid-February agreed with the notion that "for health insurance to work, it is necessary to include people who are healthy in order to help pay for those who are sick."

That seems to suggest that "while the individual mandate is still widely unpopular, indeed by far the most unpopular part of the Affordable Care Act [ACA], some arguments in favor of it are supported by most people," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll Interactive.

The poll did find that 56 percent of Americans agree that if everyone is required to have health insurance, including healthy people, it will make the average cost of insurance less expensive. And 51 percent agreed with the idea that requiring insurance companies to provide health insurance to people with preexisting conditions will not work unless everyone is required to have insurance -- a major argument often put forward as to why the individual mandate is necessary.

However, the poll also found that many Americans disagree over the constitutionality of the mandate. Half of those surveyed felt the individual mandate was unconstitutional, while 20 percent thought it was constitutional, and 30 percent weren't sure. Among Republicans, 78 percent said the mandate was unconstitutional, compared with 31 percent of Democrats.

The constitutionality of the mandate will most likely be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, and, Taylor noted, "Most people do not feel that the Court is above politics."

The poll reflected that assessment: only slightly more than a third (36 percent) of those interviewed believe that the nation's highest court would be able to decide the issue in a non-political, non-partisan way. Thirty-nine percent felt that any Supreme Court decision would be colored by the justices' political leanings.

Meanwhile, the nation as a whole remains split over the Affordable Care Act, with 39 percent opposed to the reform package, 34 percent in favor and 27 percent still undecided.

The poll included 3,419 adults over age 18 who were surveyed online between Feb. 16-18, 2011, by Harris Interactive, one of the world's leading custom market research firms, and HealthDay, a leading producer and syndicator of health news.

The complete findings of the newest joint Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll are available here. HealthDay's news report is available here. Full data on the poll and its methodology are available at Harris Interactive.

About HealthDay

HealthDay, a division of Scout News LLC, is a leading producer and syndicator of evidence-based health news for consumers and physicians and is the largest syndicator of that news to Internet sites. Its consumer health news service ( appears on more than 5,000 Web sites such as Yahoo!, MSN, iVillage, US News & World Report, hundreds of hospitals and hospital group Web sites, as well as print publication Web sites across the country. HealthDay also produces Physician's Briefing (, a news service for physicians, nurses and other medical professionals updated twice daily providing 15 articles a day across 32 medical specialties. HealthDay also provides custom content for major health portals. The newest addition to the HealthDay portfolio is HealthDay TV -- a 90-second news broadcast of essential health information that appears on several major media Web sites, U.S. government Web sites and other health information sites.

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in more than 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us - and our clients - stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit

                                     TABLE 1
       "And now some questions about the health care reform bill that was
       passed last year. Which one of the following would you most like to
                                  see happen?"

    Base: All Adults
                                 December  February  Rep. Dem.      Ind.
                                 --------  --------  ---- ----      ----
                                      2010      2011
                                      ----      ----
                                     %         %      %     %        %
                                    ---       ---    ---  ---       ---
     -Repeal all or most of bill
                 (NET)                  40        39   72   15            41
     ---------------------------       ---       ---  ---  ---           ---
       - Repeal the whole bill          28        27   55    8            27
       -----------------------         ---       ---  ---  ---           ---
    -Repeal most of the bill but
            keep some of it             12        12   17    7            14
    ----------------------------       ---       ---  ---  ---           ---
      -Keep all or most of bill
                 (NET)                  31        34   10   54            35
      -------------------------        ---       ---  ---  ---           ---
      -Repeal some parts of the
       bill but keep most of it          9        12    7   15            13
      -------------------------        ---       ---  ---  ---           ---
       - Keep the bill as it is          6         6    1   11             5
       ------------------------        ---       ---  ---  ---           ---
     -Keep the bill as it is and
           add more reforms             16        16    2   28            17
     ---------------------------       ---       ---  ---  ---           ---
              -Not Sure                 29        27   17   31            24

    Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

                                      TABLE 2
       "One of the provisions in the health care reform bill is known as the
           'individual mandate' that  requires everyone who does not have
          health insurance from Medicare, Medicaid, their employer or some
         other source, to buy it, with a subsidy that can be made available
        to make it more affordable.  Which of the following would you prefer
         to see happen?  Please select one response even if none of them is
                                your first choice."

    Base:  All Adults
                                                    Rep.  Dem.      Ind.
                                                %     %     %         %
     -Keep the bill as it is                     22     6    36          26
     -Eliminate the "individual mandate" that
      requires people to buy insurance and
      keep the rest of the bill                  21    19    24          21
     -Repeal or eliminate the whole bill         29    56     8          31
      -Not Sure                                  28    19    31          22

    Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

                                      TABLE 3
                                   LEGAL ISSUES
        "It is likely that the Supreme Court will decide whether or not the
         individual mandate is constitutional; that is, whether or not the
         Constitution allows the federal government to require that people
       buy health insurance.  If the Supreme Court becomes involved, do you
           think that their decision will be based more on the political
                 attitudes or more on the legal issues involved?"

    Base:  All Adults
                                              Rep.  Dem.     Ind.
                                          %     %     %        %
     -More on their political attitudes    39    38    41        43
     -More on the legal issues             36    43    33        37
      -Not Sure                            25    19    26        20

    Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

                                    TABLE 4
        "What is your personal opinion on whether or not the individual
                          mandate is constitutional?

    Base:  All Adults
    I believe that...                                           Party
                                                   Total Rep.  Dem.   Ind.
                                                     %     %     %      %
     -The individual mandate is constitutional        20     8    32    21
     -The individual mandate is not constitutional    50    78    31    53
      -Not Sure                                       30    14    37    27

    Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

                                      TABLE 5
          "The health care reform bill prevents insurance companies from
        refusing to insure people or terminating their insurance because of
         pre-existing conditions.  Would you like this part of the bill to
                            be repealed or to be kept?"

    Base:  All Adults
                      Rep.  Dem.     Ind.
                  %     %     %        %
     -Repeal it    16    27     9        18
     -Keep it      64    53    75        68
      -Not Sure    19    20    16        14

    Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

                                   TABLE 6
    "Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with each of the
                           following statements."

    Base: All Adults
                                                          Agree   Disagree
    -If it is constitutional for states to
     require people to buy car insurance or wear
     seat belts, it should be constitutional for
     the federal government to require people to
     buy health insurance if they don't already
     have it                                         %       46         54
    - Requiring insurance companies to provide
     health insurance to people with pre-existing
     conditions will not work unless everyone is
     required to have insurance                      %       51         49
    -For health insurance to work, it is
     necessary to include people who are healthy
     in order to help pay for those who are sick     %       71         29
    -If everyone is required to have health
     insurance, including healthy people, it will
     make the average cost of insurance less
     expensive                                       %       56         44

    Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.


This survey was conducted online within the United States February 16 to 18, 2011 among 3,149 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

Full data available at

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

Media Contact: HealthDay, +1-203-855-1400 ext. 106

SOURCE Harris Interactive

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