October Roundup:

Health Care
Global Economic Attitudes

Each month, The Opportunity Agenda summarizes in this section findings of polling and media research studies on relevant social justice and human rights issues including health care, economic justice, immigration, juvenile justice, racial discrimination, and reproductive justice. The focus is primarily on data, which can inform advocates' communications, and strategy. The information is drawn from public polling sources, progressive groups' strategic polling, and The Opportunity Agenda's own research.

In this month's Public Opinion Monthly we highlight research on health care and immigration, and findings on Americans' economic attitudes compared to those around the world. We will feature a major world public opinion finding each month, as it relates to our nation's role in an interconnected world.

Health Care Reform


Overwhelming support for covering all children, even if additional taxes were required, shows a new survey by Lake Research Partners for First Focus. The vast majority of Americans support health care reform that ensures all children are covered - even if it increased their taxes. Nearly nine out of ten Americans favor ensuring all children have health care coverage.  Even if it increased their taxes, Americans are still largely in favor of insuring all children (68% vs. 28%).

The majority of Americans (62%) would oppose the elimination of the Federal Children's Health Insurance Program if they learned that an alternative, such as the Health Insurance Exchange, “may be more costly for families and provide fewer benefits for children.” Only 21% would favor the elimination of the Program. By a 54%-14% margin, Americans would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supported a health care reform plan that reduced the level of health care coverage for children in such a manner.

National telephone survey (n=1000) conducted by Lake Research Partners for First Focus; Released on 8.13.09

Expanding coverage for all remains popular: Support for specific proposals that would expand coverage has remained steady and has not changed significantly since December 2008 according to the monthly Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. Eighty percent support expanding state government programs, large majorities still support an individual (68%) and an employer mandate (68%), and offering tax credits to help people buy private health insurance (80%). In August '09, a public plan option was still supported by a majority (59%) although this is a decline from the 67% level supported in April '09.

Non-discriminatory Coverage: A key health care reform idea that draws public support and stands out in the support it gets across the political spectrum is the idea of more consumer protections and regulation of health insurance. Seventy nine of Americans said in a July Pew Research Center poll that they favor requiring health insurance companies to cover anyone who applies, even if they have a pre-existing condition.

Policy Elements Ranking: When asked, in August 2009 by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which elements of health care reform are the "most important" to them, members of the public cited expanding and subsidizing health coverage to Americans who have been unable to afford it as their top choice (32%), followed by insurance reform (24%), and strengthening prevention programs (19%).  Reining in the amount of money the country spends on health care came in fourth (9%).

 Overall support for the health care plan that's been debated in Congress increased only slightly since June (average increase 5%). During the same period, opposition to reform increased by a much larger margin (average 13%) as more voters made up their mind about health care reform (average 10%). Today, more voters opposed the plan than favor it. Yet, the index shown in the chart is more indicative of the general mood of the voters rather than about the popularity of the specific elements of the plan. For a summary of general opinions toward the ongoing debate on the Hill, including approval ratings of the President’s and Congress’s handling of reform, visit ABC News’ polling director Gary Lager’s The Numbers.

In the Immigrant Mind

Public Agenda just released a follow-up study, A Place to Call Home, to its 2002 survey of immigrants seeking to answer questions about immigrants’ outlook on America, how that outlook has been impacted by the events of the last few years, what reform proposal they favor, and what barriers they face in their lives in America.

Confirminpublic%20agenda%20survey%20of%20immigrang what experience and previous research has shown, levels of support for comprehensive immigration reform varies among different ethnic immigrant groups, who should not be assumed to be a pre-existing base of support for comprehensive immigration reform– against,  common wisdom. Still a strong majority (72%) favor a path to citizenship for “illegal” immigrants with no criminal record, and who have shown a commitment to the United States. Twenty-one percent of respondents oppose this path because it would “reward people who broke the law,” echoing the familiar narrative of the anti-immigration movement. Support for immigration reform differs among country of origin and age groups as follows. In descending order, 84% of Mexicans, 81% of other Latin Americans, 62% of Middle Easterners, 54% of East Asians, and 48% of South Asians supports the policy. Among different age groups, 85% of 18–to–29 to only 56% of those 65 and older support a pathway to citizenship.


Obtaining the right to vote, and “showing commitment and pride in America” topped the reasons that immigrants considered for becoming citizens for 78% and 71% of respondents respectively (“better legal rights and protections” was also up there – 78%). These findings, although not surprising, provide for a strong argument to some concerns expressed by the general public about immigrants’ commitment to America.

Despite their own expressed personal commitment to America, some immigrant respondents to the survey do not think that recent immigrants demonstrate as strong commitment. The study found that only 60% think that recent immigrants have the same (57%) or more (3%) respect for American laws and customs, as themselves. However these opinions vary drastically between younger and older respondents. Four out of five respondents under age 30 say that recent immigrants have the same respect for American law and customs, but fewer respondents of age 31 and 49 think this (3 out of 5), and only two out of five of those older than 65 agree.

Recent focus group research by The Opportunity Agenda and Lake Research Partners also found that white progressive and Latino voters often assume that undocumented immigrants do not want to become Americans but “are interested mostly in coming here to work, and send much of their money to homes and families in other countries”.

Back to Public Agenda's survey, it is worth mentioning that Muslim immigrants in America do not feel disaffection with the nation—far from it. If anything, their embrace of the United States and their expressions of patriotism are stronger than those of the other groups.

A Place to Call Home is a telephone survey (n= 1,138) of foreign-born adults who currently live in the United States and came to the United States at the age of 5 or older. Most of them were either citizens or in the process of being naturalized. The survey was sponsored the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Public Opinion in America and Around the World

Increased support for government spending and regulation: A poll of 20 countries and about 22,000 people around the world shows that on average three out of five citizens favor “increasing government spending to stimulate the economy.” A great majority (67%) also “want to see an increase in 'government regulation and oversight of the national economy. Among the major economies, this support was highest in China (94% support) and lowest in the US (50%) and Japan (38%).” People's satisfaction with their own government's response varies greatly from country to country. Americans are evenly split between those happy and those unhappy with their government's response.

Telephone survey of 22,158 adult citizens across 20 countries conducted in August 2009 for BBC World Service by GlobeScan and the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland.

- Eleni Delimpaltadaki