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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 18, 2009

Hawkeye Poll: slight majority of Americans against healthcare reform

Just over half of Americans believe healthcare reform would do more harm than good and disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president, according to a University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll released today.

The national poll showed that 52 percent of Americans disapprove of Obama's performance, while 48 percent approve. When asked about healthcare reform, 52 percent said government action would do more harm than good, and the remaining 48 percent supported change.

Conducted Oct. 23-31, the phone survey included 772 respondents with a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent. Topline results and sample characteristics are available at (

"Our results show a sharp divide in support for Obama, with 95 percent of his voters in 2008 approving of his performance compared to only 10 percent of McCain voters," said Frederick Boehmke, associate professor of political science in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and faculty advisor for the Hawkeye Poll.

UI political scientists said it's common for approval ratings to dip midway through a first term.

"It appears that Americans are frustrated by the lack of tangible legislative results, particularly on healthcare reform, and the lack of significant turnaround in unemployment since Obama took office," said Nathan Darus, a UI doctoral candidate in political science. "New presidents are inexperienced as national-level executives. As they learn the ropes, they experience policy failures that play into disapproval."

Broken down by age group, results show that young adults are most satisfied with the president's performance. Just over 55 percent of those between ages 18 and 35 are happy with how Obama is doing his job. People ages 36 to 54 were the least pleased with his performance, with only 46 percent approval.

"It makes sense that young adults would be most supportive now, because Obama's strongest support during his campaign in 2008 was among college students and those under the age of 35," Darus said.

Regarding healthcare reform, the poll showed a partisan split. Government action was preferred by 54 percent of Democrats, compared to only 40 percent of Republicans.

Those who approve of the job Obama has been doing were also slightly more likely to support healthcare reform. Fifty-one percent of those who approve of the job Obama has done support government action compared to 46 percent of those who disapprove.

Women were far more likely to support healthcare reform. Nearly 58 percent of women would like to see change, compared to only 41 percent of men. The majority of both Republican and Democratic women supported reform (65 percent and 54 percent, respectively). Most Democratic men also supported reform (60 percent), but most Republican men did not (37 percent support).

"Women tend to align with the Democratic Party and its initiatives more so than men," Boehmke said. "Fifty-three percent of women in our sample voted for Obama, compared to only 34 percent of men."

Just over half of individuals with a high school education or less, some college, or a college degree believed healthcare reform would do more harm (51 percent, 52 percent and 53 percent, respectively). Those with advanced or professional degrees were most in favor of reform, with 54 percent agreeing that change is needed to control costs and expand coverage.

Respondents under age 35 appeared to be most opposed to healthcare reform, with 61 percent indicating that it would be a bad move, but the polling team cautioned that the number of respondents in this group was small. Adults ages 55 to 69 were most supportive of reform, with 53 percent saying they prefer it.

The poll was conducted by the Hawkeye Poll Cooperative, comprised of UI faculty and graduate students in political science, with the cooperation and facilities of the UI Social Science Research Center, directed by Professor Kevin Leicht of the UI Department of Sociology. The poll is a teaching, research and service project of the UI Department of Political Science. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Provost provided funding for the poll.

Of the 772 respondents, 46 percent were women and 54 percent were men. Twenty-nine percent were Democrats, 40 percent were independents, and 31 percent were Republican. Nearly 64 percent considered themselves moderate, while 20 percent were liberal and 16 percent were conservative. Reported results are weighted by state population.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Fred Boehmke, Hawkeye Poll Faculty Advisor, 319-335-2342 (office), 716-866-9277 (cell),; Nathan Darus, Hawkeye Poll, 319-335-3381 (office), 216-798-1682 (cell),; Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070,