Americans to Obama: Go slower

Americans to Obama: Go slower

This article was co-authored by Bill McInturff and Alex Bratty.

It may be August, but we’re still here monitoring the public mood as the health care debate picks up steam. The latest news: Americans are paying attention to the health care debate and the message they’re sending to Obama is “go slow!”

Our recent NBC News poll* shows Americans’ appetite for change to the health care system has been curbed over the last few months. Back in April, 70% of the country said the American health care system needs a “complete overhaul” or “major reform” while 28% said it needs “minor reform” or “no change.” Today, there is a significant drop in these numbers with 60% saying we need complete overhaul or major reform and 38% choosing minor reform or no change.

Importantly, the biggest drop has come among those calling for a complete overhaul of the system. In April one-third (33%) of the country called for this, today just one-fifth (21%) see this as the best option. Instead, those opting for minor reform has increased from 21% in April, to 31% today.

Helping explain this shift in attitudes is that a majority (54%) say they are more concerned reform efforts will go too far and make the health care system worse than it is now (in terms of quality of care and choice of doctor), compared to just four-in-ten (41%) who say they would be more concerned reforms would not do enough to make the health care system better than it is now (by lowering costs and covering the uninsured).

And, what must be most troubling for the President and Democrats in Congress, is that several key sub-groups come down on the side of worrying reform will go too far. A majority of Americans with private health insurance (60%), Whites (61%), Independents (57%), Seniors (55%), Blue Dog Democrats** (52%), and Moderates (51%) are concerned reform will make the health care system worse.

With numbers like these President Obama and his Democrat Caucus should proceed with caution on health care reform lest they face the ire of more upset voters at town hall meetings or the ballot box next November.

 *National survey of 805 adults conducted August 15-17, 2009 (Public Opinion Strategies partners with Peter D. Hart Research Associates to conduct NBC News polls. Neither Peter D. Hart Research Associates nor NBC News are responsible for these conclusions.)

**Blue Dog Democrats are defined in this poll as White moderate and conservative Democrats.