WASHINGTON ( TheStreet) -- As Congress begins tackling housing-finance reform this month, lawmakers will have to hash out nitty-gritty details that few voters care about but will mean major changes for borrowers and lenders.

That's a problem for politicians who had planned to use the debate over Fannie Mae ( FNMA.OB) and Freddie Mac ( FMCC.OB) as a launchpad into the 2012 elections.

Despite the fact that America's housing-finance system has cost taxpayers more money than any bank bailout and many consider its flawed structure to be the single biggest contributor to the financial crisis, it seems most people don't know how it works or care how the housing-finance problem is resolved.

"I don't think average Americans understand the impact that Fannie and Freddie have on their lives," says David E. Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, who has consulted with top Republican leaders. "I really don't. I think what resonates more than anything is just the word 'bailout.'"

Indeed, while major polling groups have conducted tons of research on how Americans feel about "bailouts," "Wall Street" and "banks," they've conducted far fewer surveys on how Americans feel about Fannie, Freddie or housing-finance policy.

Zogby spokeswoman Corry Schiermeyer doesn't recall any polls on those topics since the two firms entered their current conservatorship limbo in September 2008.

"Fannie and Freddie may have hired someone to do polling for them, but I don't have anything that they did for themselves, and we didn't really ask the question on our own," said Schiermeyer. "Most of the stuff we release under our name is going to be fairly generic. It may be 'what do you think of Wall Street bailouts?' but not 'What do you think of Fannie and Freddie?' I don't recall any clients hiring us to do that and, if they did, I couldn't give you that information anyway."

Gallup has several surveys about housing-market sentiment -- as well as a poll showing that "banking reform sells better when 'Wall Street' is mentioned" -- but none that get into housing-finance policy.

A Rasmussen poll in September last year came close, but the results seem inconclusive. A majority of Americans surveyed said they want the government to "stay out of the housing market." Yet many respondents also felt that a home was "the ideal investment for a family"-- a notion that's in line with current policies to foster widespread homeownership.

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