WASHINGTON — A majority of voters in deeply red congressional districts oppose the health care overhaul approved by the House last month, a finding that could complicate efforts to get the legislation to President Donald J. Trump's desk, according to a University of Maryland poll released Wednesday.
The survey, conducted by the University of Maryland's Program for Public Consultation, found that 63 percent of voters in "very red" districts opposed the American Health Care Act while voters in "red" or "leans red" districts were against it 63 percent and 60 percent, respectively.
Those numbers come as Republican leaders in the Senate, under pressure to make good on longstanding campaign promises to repeal and replace Obamacare, are set to unveil a discussion draft of their own legislation Thursday. The measure is expected to differ from the House bill significantly.
The survey finds overall Republican support for the House effort — 64 percent of GOP voters nationally back the legislation — but overwhelming Democratic opposition combined with a concern among some Republicans would make selling the legislation difficult in Congress as well as in lawmakers' districts.
With some 75 million beneficiaries nationwide, including 1.3 million in Maryland, proposed cuts to the 52-year-old Medicaid program have become a key stumbling block as the Senate considers the health care legislation approved by the Republican-controlled House in May.
"Senate Republicans face an uphill climb in crafting a version of the AHCA that will get majority public support, even in red states," said Steven Kull, director of the Program for Public Consultation. "While the Senate is talking about adjusting the House bill, it is still largely working with the same components which are quite unpopular."
A number of specific components of the House legislation polled by the group also faced opposition in Republican districts. For instance, 50 percent of respondents in "very red" districts found the plan to phase out the Medicaid expansion included in Obamacare as unacceptable. Nearly a third viewed it as acceptable, and 15 percent saw it as "tolerable."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he expected to give colleagues a draft of the bill on Thursday. The measure would eliminate much of Obama's 2010 Affordable Care Act, and leave the government with a diminished role in providing coverage and helping people afford it.
"We have to act, and we are," McConnell said.
The survey was fielded from June 8 to June 13 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points for the national sample.
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The group defined districts based on the nonpartisan Cook Political Report "partisan voting index." A "very red" district had a score between 14 and 33. Under that rubric, Maryland's 1st Congressional District — represented by Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Baltimore County — would just qualify with a score of 14.