From NBC's Mark Murray
Two weeks since raucous congressional town-hall meetings on health care became a national story — and days after President Barack Obama began holding his own town halls — Americans remain skeptical about White House plans to overhaul the nation's health system, according to a new NBC News poll.
A plurality believes Obama's health plan would worsen the quality of health care, a result that is virtually unchanged from last month's NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. What's more, only four in 10 approve of the president's handling of the issue, which also is unchanged from July.
And a majority — 54 percent — is more concerned that the government will go too far in reforming the nation's health care system, while 41 percent is more worried that the reform will not do enough to lower costs and cover the uninsured.
"Things have not changed radically in the past two weeks," says Democratic pollster Jay Campbell of Hart Research Associates, which conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies.
"But they have changed enough to illustrate an environment that has gotten tougher" for the White House, he says.
One of the reasons why it has become tougher is due to misperceptions about the president's plans for reform.
Majorities in the poll believe the plans would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants; would lead to a government takeover of the health system; and would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions — all claims that nonpartisan fact-checkers say are untrue about the legislation that has emerged so far from Congress.
Forty-five percent think the reform proposals would allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care for the elderly.
That also is untrue: The provision in the House legislation that critics have seized on — raising the specter of "death panels" or euthanasia — would simply allow Medicare to pay doctors for end-of-life counseling, if the patient wishes.