WASHINGTON (CNN) – A slight majority of Americans want Congress to continue working on health care reform when lawmakers return from summer recess next week, according to a new national poll. But nearly half of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday say Congress should start from scratch, or stop working at all on any bills that would change the country's health care system.
The poll indicates that one in four Americans want Congress to pass into law with relatively few changes the health care bills already approved by committees. Another 28 percent say the bills should be become law - but only after major alterations to the legislation. One in four say lawmakers should start from scratch, and one in five feel Congress should stop all work towards health care reform.
As the health care issue moves from town halls to the floor of the U.S. House and Senate, says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland, "most Americans want to see some action on the bills that have already been prepared by congressional committees. But that doesn't translate into support for everything in those bills, or everything that Barack Obama has pushed for to date."
What do Americans want Congress to do on health care? CNN Radio reports:
The poll suggests that Americans are split over what they've heard about President Barack Obama's proposals to reform health care, with 48 percent in favor of his plans and 51 percent opposed.
"That's essentially where the public was in early summer. Our June poll showed 51 percent supporting the Obama plan at that time, but with the sampling error, it's unclear whether there has been much change on this issue," adds Holland.
According to the survey, there's a major generational divide over health care reform, with six in 10 of the country's 18 to 34-year-olds in favor of Obama's plans, and six in 10 seniors opposed to the president's proposals. Those 65 and older are also skeptical over how the president's health care reform proposals will directly affect their coverage: Nearly half of the seniors polled say Medicare recipients would be worse off under the proposed reforms, with one in three feeling things would remain the same, and just one in five saying they'd be better off.
The poll's release comes during the last week of summer recess for Congress. Many lawmakers held and continue to hold town halls on health care reform, where often-raucous protests by opponents of the president's plans have grabbed headlines.
Did those protests affect views on the issue? Six in 10 say no, says Holland, who notes that support for Obama's plan has dropped among Republicans and independents - but has grown among Democrats.
The survey suggests that only one in five Americans think they and their families would be better off if health care reforms are passed into law. Nearly four in 10 say they'd be worse off, and four in 10 say things would be about the same. A slight majority say the current health care system makes them feel more secure, with 44 percent indicating they'd feel more secure with the changes proposed by the president. And a slight majority, 55 percent, say their health care costs will go up under the president's proposals. One in four say costs will remain the same, and one in five feel prices will go down.
But the vast majority of Americans think there should be some kind of changes made to the nation's health care system. According to the poll, 45 percent say a great deal of change is needed, and 46 percent feel only some changes are necessary. The 45 percent who say a great deal of change is needed is down 10 points from June. Nearly two-thirds say that problems with the country's health care system, if not addressed, will eventually affect most Americans.
On one of the most contentious points - a health insurance plan administered by the federal government that would compete with private health insurers - 55 percent say they support it when it is described as an option that the government would offer to the public. Most believe that Obama would eventually like to see the government run the health care system in this country.
Six in 10 people questioned say they understand most of the major points in Obama's reform proposals, with four in 10 saying they are confused.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted August 28-31, with 1,010 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.