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Poll Finds Peril for GOP on Health Care

CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.


Republicans' victories in last week's midterm elections were driven in part by their strong opposition to the health care reform legislation, which they promised to "repeal and replace" should they be given the opportunity.

According to the new CBS News poll, many Americans (though not a majority) are on board. Forty-five percent say Congress should try to repeal the law, while 44 percent say lawmakers should not do so. More than three in four Republicans say Congress should aim for repeal.

Before settling on an aggressive push for repeal, however - something that is more or less impossible with a Democrat in the White House - Republicans might want to take a look at another finding in the poll. Asked what the new Congress should concentrate on, just 14 percent of Americans chose health care. That puts the issue far behind jobs and the economy, selected by 56 percent of Americans.

And therein lies the risk for Republicans. Democrats appear to have suffered at the polls because of their decision to focus on health care at a time when the economy was suffering; in a CBS News poll in July, nearly four in ten Americans said the president had spent too much time on health care. In the same poll, more than half said he had spent too little time on the economy.

If Republicans want to avoid a similar criticism, they can't be seen as focusing on health care at the expense of addressing the economy. That's because while many Americans (and most Republicans) are in favor of repeal, relatively few believe health care should be the new Congress' top priority.

Poll: Disenchantment Remains After Midterms

Read the Complete Poll

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,137 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone November 7-10, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
Brian Montopoli is a political reporter for You can read more of his posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.
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