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Independent Voters Remain Worried about Health Care
Date:2/8/2008

New Survey by American College of Surgeons Shows Independents Holding Fast

on Health Care Concerns; Democrats and Republicans Cool Slightly

CHICAGO, Feb. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Concern about health care continues to hold strong among independent voters, even as the issue has ebbed somewhat for Democrats and Republicans since last fall, according to results of two national "On the Table" surveys taken by the American College of Surgeons (ACS).

The vast majority of those surveyed (92 percent) still regard health care as important for the government to address, but those labeling it "one of the most important" issues fell from 30 percent to 24 percent overall, according to surveys taken in early September and early January.

Self-identified independents, however, held steady in their concerns, with 23 percent calling health care one of the most important issues in January, versus 21 percent in September. In addition, the number of independents rating the health care system as poor or very poor rose, from 34 percent to 44 percent -- again moving against trends among Democrats and Republicans.

"Health care is a dominant concern among all voters," said Thomas R. Russell, MD, FACS, executive director of the American College of Surgeons. "But this survey highlights the importance of health care to the 'independent' voter. The candidates would be wise to pay attention to the trends emerging here if they want to gain traction among independents."

The ACS's national "On the Table" surveys included interviews with 1,003 adults in early September 2007 and again in early January of this year. Shifting opinions and contrasts emerged on several health care questions in the surveys, though it was clear many voters think the candidates need to do more on health care.

The decline in those rating health care "one of the most important" issues was sharper among Republicans (from 21 percent in September to 15 percent in January) than Democrats (37 percent to 32 percent).

Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of those surveyed said they find the current health care system lacking, down from 70 percent in September. Democrats (44 percent) are twice as likely as Republicans to rate the system as poor or very poor, though figures fell somewhat on that question for both parties. Among those most likely to rate the system as poor or very poor are minorities (47 percent) and the less affluent (39 percent with household incomes less than $50,000.

Significantly more Democrats, however, expressed satisfaction with presidential candidates' health care proposals in the second survey, rising from 34 percent to 47 percent. Republicans expressing satisfaction with their candidates on health care remained steady at 32 percent, but those dissatisfied rose to 49 percent, from 45 percent. Independents expressing dissatisfaction rose slightly, to 47 percent.

Respondents asked to rank candidates on the basis of their health care proposals alone continued to rank Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York first (20 percent, vs. 23 percent in September). Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois was second, rising from 8 percent to 11 percent. None of the Republican candidates reached the double digits or emerged clearly ahead of the others.

When survey respondents were asked which presidential candidate they would rather have assume a number of different roles, on the Democratic side, Senator Clinton took the top spot in all categories. The respondents were asked: Which presidential candidate would you rather have:

-- Overseeing their personal care if they needed an operation

(Clinton: 18%)

-- Keeping them company if they were in the hospital (Clinton: 18%)

-- Acting as their personal advocate in a dispute with an insurance

company (Clinton: 24%)

-- Leading the coordination of recovery after a natural disaster

(Clinton: 18%)

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani -- who has since dropped out of the race -- led among Republicans (33 percent) as best suited to lead recovery efforts after a natural disaster, but that total was down 25 percent from the September survey. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas overtook Giuliani as leader among Republicans in two areas:

-- Overseeing their personal care if they needed an operation (13%)

-- Keeping them company if they were in the hospital (20%)

About the "On the Table" Survey

Commissioned by the American College of Surgeons, the nationwide telephone survey of 1,003 registered voters was conducted by KRC Research from January 2 - 10, 2008, to gauge public opinions on health care and the presidential campaigns. The survey's weighted margin of error is plus-or-minus 3.1% at the 95% confidence level. The earlier survey was conducted from August 27 - September 4, 2007.

About the American College of Surgeons

The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and to improve the care of the surgical patient. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has more than 72,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. For more information, visit http://www.facs.org.


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SOURCE American College of Surgeons
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