Given the seeming volatility in what can happen in the health care reform debate — such as the recent flap over “death panels” — it’s not surprising that President Obama wanted House and Senate floor votes before the August recess. That’s impossible now, but presumably the President and Democratic congressional leaders will push for votes as quickly as possible when legislators return to Washington in September. House and Senate members will presumably be more inclined to proceed swiftly, to the extent voters express a strong sense of urgency that health care reform be enacted. How urgent do voters think health care reform is?
In the following diagram (which you can click to enlarge), I’ve plotted different polls’ answers to this question. A couple of things should be noted. First, I’ve grouped together survey items that, on the surface, seem to be asking about different things; I would argue, however, that all of them get at the urgency question in one way or another. Second, the percentages listed in the headings for respondents who consider passage of health care reform a high priority are conservative (in the sense of being cautious). For example, I say that 46% of respondents in the TIME magazine poll assign a high priority to passage of health care reform. Those are only the people who said it was “very important.” Arguably, however, we should add in the 23% who said it was “somewhat important,” which would bring the total to 69% attaching some importance to passage of a bill.
The poll implying the least urgency for passage of a health care reform bill is Rasmussen’s. I know I pick on Rasmussen fairly often, but two points seem worth making. First, across a variety of issues, Rasmussen’s recent polls seem to skew Republican a bit. Second, of the 54% favoring no action this year, perhaps some of these respondents (and by extension some of the larger population) would favor a health care reform bill being passed next year, after more negotiation and compromise.
As with all the other issues for which I’ve been summarizing poll results, it will be interesting to see what polls coming out in the coming weeks say about the matter of urgency.