WASHINGTON - Americans are divided on whether to trust Democrats or Republicans to overhaul the nation's health care system, which critics say is fraught with waste and lawsuit abuse, a national poll indicates.
Forty-three percent of respondents to a CNN poll said they trust Democrats to address health care issues, while 40 percent of Republicans said GOP lawmakers would do a better job.
The poll, released Thursday, also indicates that most Americans feel that the Senate health care overhaul bill drafted by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would raise their taxes and the federal deficit.
Sixty-one percent of respondents said they oppose Reid's plan, while 36 percent said they favor it.
Four percent of respondents said they had no opinion on the $848 billion proposal, which lacks legal reforms sought by many Republicans and business groups to help contain skyrocketing health care costs.
Among other things, tort reform proponents have suggested lawmakers include in the final health care overhaul bill a cap on punitive damages and restricting the statute of limitations on malpractice claims as a way to cut health care costs.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is among those calling for legal reforms.
The public option component of the Senate bill, aimed at infusing more competition into the health insurance marketplace, is supported by 53 percent of Americans, the poll indicates.
The House passed its $1 trillion health care overhaul last month, while the Senate this month voted to begin debate on plan.
The final House and Senate plans will be merged in conference committee before a final bill goes to President Barack Obama, who has made health care reform No. 1 on his domestic policy agenda.
If signed by the president, the health care overhaul would mark the most significant expansion of medical care since Congress created Medicare in 1965 for the nation's elderly and disabled.
On the wider political question of which party running Congress would be better for the nation, the CNN poll shows that the public is divided, with 40 percent saying Democrats and 39 percent pointing to Republicans.
Nineteen percent of respondents that the country would be in the same condition regardless of which party controls the House and Senate, where Democrats currently enjoy hefty majorities.
"As the debate over health care continues, the Democrats may have lost the competitive advantage that they enjoyed earlier this year," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "Since August, the number who support Democratic control of Congress has fallen farthest in the Northeast and the Pacific Rim -- two regions that have been Democratic strongholds for many years."
All 435 seats in the House and more than a third of seats in the Senate are up for election next year. Currently, Democrats have a 258-177 majority in the House and 20-seat majority in the Senate.
The CNN poll 1,041 adult Americans was conducted Dec. 2-3. The poll's margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, based in Princeton, N.J.