Polls suggest that President Obama's address to Congress on health care reform had a positive effect on shifting public opinion.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. snap poll of people interviewed before and after the speech indicated that the president shifted public opinion in his favor. After the speech, two-thirds said they supported Obama's health care proposals, compared with 53 percent in a survey days before the president spoke. About one in seven speech-watchers changed their minds on Obama's proposal, but the audience was more Democratic than the U.S. population as a whole, so the results do not reflect the views of all Americans.
Dial-testing by Democracy Corps, a Democratic polling and strategy firm, found that Obama's speech moved Americans on both sides of the aisle to support reform.
Democracy Corps conducted dial testing of the speech with 50 independent and weak partisan voters in Denver, Colorado, followed by focus groups with voters whose support for Obama's health care plan increased after seeing the speech. The dial group participants were evenly divided among those who initially supported and initially opposed the plan, with an almost equal division between Obama and McCain voters.
These swing voters reacted strongly to Obama's message. Support for Obama's plan jumped 20 points, from 46 percent before the speech to 66 percent after. Importantly, Obama also achieved one of his principal goals of boosting the intensity of support. Prior to the speech, just 2 percent of these swing voters supported the plan strongly while 26 percent opposed it strongly; by the end of the evening those numbers were virtually reversed, with 28 percent supporting the plan strongly against just 8 percent strongly opposed. The president was also extremely successful in moving the needle on areas where progressives have struggled over the last few months, making great strides in reassuring voters on issues like the deficits and taxes, seniors and Medicare, choice and control, competition and costs, and government intervention.
Older independent voters came away from the speech more supportive of health care reform and feeling that the president had addressed some of their concerns, according to the AARP.
Their national survey found that 77 percent of independents had concerns about health reform coming into last night's speech and 72 percent felt that some of those concerns were addressed. Sixty-three percent of independents considered themselves "more supportive of the proposals being talked about related to health care" after the speech was over.
"What we saw in this survey was something we've seen for decades: that once you explain why we need reform people understand its importance," said Nancy LeaMond, AARP Executive Vice President. "Last night's speech wasn't as much of a 'game changer' as it was a volume softener."