By JENNIFER AGIESTA and RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press

     WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly two years after President Barack Obama signed landmark legislation to cover the uninsured, a new poll finds his health care overhaul is neither better liked nor better understood.

     But as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the AP-GfK poll shows that Americans are less concerned that their own personal health care will suffer as a result of it.

     Shortly after the law passed in 2010, nearly half — 47 percent — said they expected the quality of their care to worsen. Now just 32 percent say that’s their worry.

     Most of the law’s major changes have yet to take effect, and dire predictions — of lost jobs, soaring premiums and long waits to see the doctor — have not materialized. Provisions that have gone into effect, including extended coverage for young adults on their parents’ insurance and relief for seniors with high prescription costs, only had a modest impact on health care spending.

     Lee Sisson, 63, a semi-retired businessman from Winter Haven, Fla., says he figures that he might be better off personally as a result of the overhaul. For example, it would limit how much health insurance companies can charge older adults. But self-interest hasn’t made Sisson a supporter.

     ”As a guy that’s semi-retired, the law would probably benefit me, and I’m still against it because it’s not good for our country,” said Sisson. He’s concerned about the cost of new government programs getting passed on to future generations.

     Most of the drop in people saying they believe their care will worsen actually comes from those like Sisson, who are opposed to it. Of the law’s opponents, 55 percent now say their care will worsen. But in April 2010, soon after the law passed, that share was 67 percent.

     Overall, half of Americans say they don’t think the quality of their care will change, while 14 percent expect it to improve.

     The health care debate may be getting less edgy, but it’s unclear how much it will help Obama and Democrats heading into a contentious 2012 election season. Americans remain cool to the major domestic accomplishment of the president’s first term, even if they like some of the law’s provisions.

     The poll found that 35 percent of Americans support the health care law overhaul, while 47 percent oppose it. That’s about the same split as when it passed. Then, 39 percent supported it and 50 percent opposed it.

     Opposition remains strongest among seniors, many of whom object that Medicare cuts were used to help finance coverage for younger uninsured people.

     ”We were supposed to have a nice, relaxed retirement, and now we are scared,” said Nancy Deister Knaack, 65, of Leawood, Kan., a retired special education teacher. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

     Confusion about the complex legislation has not helped Obama sell it to the public, contributing to an atmosphere in which wild charges about potential repercussions readily find an audience.

     Only about three in ten say they understand the law extremely or very well. Most, 44 percent, say they understand it just somewhat, while 29 percent say they understand it not too well or not well at all.

     On the key issue before the Supreme Court, however, public opinion is clear. Nearly 6 in 10 in say they oppose the law’s requirement that Americans carry health insurance, except in cases of financial hardship, or pay a fine to the government.

     Opponents argue that such a mandate is an unconstitutional expansion of federal power, amounting to Congress ordering private citizens to buy a particular product.

     The administration and many experts believe that the overhaul cannot work without an insurance requirement. The law guarantees that people with pre-existing medical problems can get coverage. Therefore, without a mandate, many healthy people may just postpone buying insurance until they get sick, driving up costs.

     Even many Democrats are uneasy about the insurance requirement, although it can be fulfilled by getting coverage through an employer, a government program or by directly buying a policy, in many cases with the help of federal subsidies.

     Las Vegas software engineer Michael Hugh, 37, says he supports the president and intends to vote for him, but the health care law should be revised.

     ”I am for the concept of it, but I am against the penalties,” he said. “It’s a good idea that they are taking down a wrong path because people shouldn’t be penalized for not having health care.” Hugh is currently uninsured but says he plans to get coverage through a new job.

     While opposition to an individual insurance requirement remains strong, the poll found that 60 percent support putting the obligation on employers. Businesses are currently under no legal requirement to provide insurance, and the law would penalize medium to large companies that fail to do so.

     The Associated Press-GfK Poll was conducted February 16-20, 2012 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,000 adults nationwide and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

     ___

     Associated Press writer Stacy A. Anderson and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

     ___

     Online:

     AP-GfK poll – http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

     Health care interactive – http://hosted.ap.org/interactives/2011/healthcare

 

 

How the poll on the health care law was conducted

 

By The Associated Press

     The Associated Press-GfK Poll on the health care law was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from Feb. 16-20. It is based on landline and cellphone telephone interviews with a nationally representative random sample of 1,000 adults. Interviews were conducted with 700 respondents on landline telephones and 300 on cellular phones.

     Digits in the phone numbers dialed were generated randomly to reach households with unlisted and listed landline and cellphone numbers.

     Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish.

     As is done routinely in surveys, results were weighted, or adjusted, to ensure that responses accurately reflect the population’s makeup by factors such as age, sex, education and race. In addition, the weighting took into account patterns of phone use — landline only, cell only and both types — by region.

     No more than one time in 20 should chance variations in the sample cause the results to vary by more than plus or minus 4.1 percentage points from the answers that would be obtained if all adults in the U.S. were polled.

     There are other sources of potential error in polls, including the wording and order of questions.

     The questions and results are available at http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com.

Topline results are available at http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com and http://surveys.ap.org.

AP-GfK: Poll shows divide over increasing money for transit

WASHINGTON (AP) — A slight majority of Americans prefer living in a single-family house in the suburbs or a rural area with more land, even if it means driving long distances to get to work or run errands, according to a poll by The Associated Press-GfK.

However, a significant minority, 44 percent, would choose an apartment or smaller house in an urban area that comes with a short drive to work or the opportunity to use public transportation, bike or walk. The split also has a political aspect: Sixty-seven percent of Republicans and 53 percent of independents prefer suburban or rural living, while 55 percent of Democrats prefer urban areas.

The share of Americans who prefer suburban or rural living — 53 percent — is identical to the share who say the government should increase spending to build and improve roads, bridges and interstate highways. About 1 in 3 think current spending levels are about right, while just over 1 in 10 would like to see less money spent on roads.

Many states are struggling just to maintain current spending levels, and Congress has been unable to come up with a long-term plan to pay for highway aid that closes the gap between current spending and federal gas tax revenue.

Americans are more divided over building and improving public transportation such as rail and bus systems. Four in 10 say spending on public transportation should be increased, but just as many say current spending is about right. Only 18 percent say transit spending should be cut.

Contrary to the widely held notion that the millennial generation is flocking to cities and giving up their cars, younger people are not significantly more or less likely than older people to prefer urban living with a shorter commute and access to public transit, the poll found.

Matthew Wild, 33, an airline pilot living in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne, said he favors increasing spending on both public transit and highways. The region’s freeways “take a real beating” from the traffic and need to be maintained, he said, but no new lanes should be added.

“We definitely don’t need to be expanding freeways anymore,” Wild said. “We’ve maxed out.”

He cited a highway near his home that was recently widened and now is as full as ever. He does, however, strongly support building more light rail transit locally and high-speed rail between California cities.

Wild said he’d much rather take a convenient local train than fight traffic in his car. He currently takes trains only a few times a year because there are no direct routes from where he lives to the places he wants to go, and indirect routes take too long, he said.

“The big problem with L.A. is that, given the lack of public transportation, sitting in traffic in your own car is still faster than taking public transit,” Wild said.

Jane McEntire, 62, who lives in Cartersville, Georgia, on the northwest fringe of the Atlanta metropolitan area, says traffic is horrible and getting worse.

Even so, she’d rather keep spending on roads and cut spending on public transportation. She says she’s lost confidence in the ability of state and local transportation officials to make improvements and not fritter money away on wasteful projects.

She is particularly incensed that officials used federal transit aid to build a slow-moving streetcar line in downtown Atlanta that is used primarily by tourists.

“I think they look really cute, but as far as usefulness — no,” she said. “When you have federal dollars that are coming into a state that are available and you spend it on these cars in Atlanta that go six or eight blocks back and forth … Why didn’t they take that money and spend it on something to help commuters?”

The AP-GfK Poll of 1,077 adults was conducted online from April 23 to 27 using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.

___

Online:

AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

___

Follow Joan Lowy on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy


AP-GfK Poll: Many approve Iran deal; Most don’t trust Tehran
WASHINGTON (AP) — Many Americans like the idea of the preliminary deal that would limit Iran’s nuclear program but very few people really believe Tehran will follow through with the agreement.

An Associated Press-GfK poll finds that just 3 percent said they were very confident that Iran would allow inspections of its nuclear facilities, remove plutonium from the country and shut down close to half of its uranium-enriching centrifuges as the preliminary deal says would be required. Nearly seven in 10 people said they were not confident, while 25 percent said they were only moderately confident.

The U.S., Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China are aiming to finalize a deal with Iran by June 30 that puts limits on Iranian programs that could be used to make nuclear arms. In exchange, economic sanctions on Iran would be lifted over time. Tehran denies any interest in such weapons but is negotiating in hopes of relief from billions of dollars in economic sanctions.

The next round of nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers will start Tuesday in Vienna.

Although more than half of Americans polled say they approve of making the deal, few people — 16 percent — are actually paying close attention to the complex Iran negotiations that have angered Israel and unnerved Gulf nations who are concerned about Tehran’s rising influence and aggressive behavior in the region.

The Senate last week passed legislation that would give Congress time to vote to reject any deal before sanctions are lifted. President Barack Obama would retain the right to veto lawmakers’ disapproval.

Israel’s strong objections to the deal could make a difference to many Americans. If forced to choose, a majority say it’s more important to maintain the U.S. relationship with Israel than to strike a deal with Iran. But respondents are divided along party lines, with nearly six in 10 Democrats saying the Iran deal is more important while seven in 10 Republicans believe ties with Israel are more critical.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been one of the harshest critics of the deal with Iran. Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat, citing hostile Iranian rhetoric toward the Jewish state, Iran’s missile capabilities and its support for violent militant groups.

More broadly, the poll found that Americans are increasingly interested in the U.S. role in world affairs, with 60 percent saying it’s an extremely important issue, up from 52 percent less than five months ago. Slightly more people also approve of Obama’s handling of the issue, increasing from 38 percent in December to 42 percent in the latest poll. Fifty-seven percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of the issue.

But overall, Americans are more likely to trust Republicans than Democrats to handle protecting the country.

___

The AP-GfK Poll of 1,077 adults was conducted online April 23-27, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.

___

Online:

AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com