Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 18, 2011

WHAT THE PUBLIC THINKS OF HEALTH CARE REPEAL.... In advance of tomorrow's House vote on eliminating the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, proponents insist that the public is on their side. The truth is far more complicated.

Over the weekend, the latest national poll from the Associated Press, for example, found that only about one in four Americans (26%) want to scrap the Affordable Care Act altogether. Sounds like pretty abysmal support for the Republican plan, right? Today, however, a CNN poll was released, asking respondents whether they'd like to see Congress repeal all of the law or leave it in place. Half the country (50%) favored repeal.

Obviously, that's a huge difference. One credible national poll finds one in four support repeal, and two days later, another credible national poll finds one in two support repeal. Statistical variations of a few points between surveys are to be expected; 24-point differences on the same issue at the same time are not.

So what's going on? Greg Sargent has an important piece that explains the larger problem. The key is giving respondents enough options to get an accurate sense of their attitudes.

This pattern now seems obvious. How to explain it? One possibility is that while there's no quibbling with the fact that health reform is unpopular, there are many differing reasons why people don't like the law. When people are given the opportunity to tell pollsters that they don't think the bill is ambitious enough, a third or more of Americans do just that. Another chunk of voters says there are some problems with the bill, and it needs to be partially scaled back. Result: The sum total calling for full repeal drops sharply.

But when they are given only a straight up choice -- keep the bill as is, or get rid of it -- the number who opt for blowing it up is considerably higher. This probably reflects a high degree of frustration with the current law, but it seems to exaggerate the depth of support for doing away with reform completely.

Looking back over the last year or so, it seems there have been three relative constants in public opinion as it relates to health care. The first is that the public soured on the Democratic plan, even if most Americans didn't know what the Democratic plan was/is. The second is that the individual components of the reform package were quite popular -- in some cases, extremely popular -- when pollsters actually told respondents was in the proposal.

And the third is that "opposition" to the reform plan has never been monolithic. Reform's detractors have been large in number for quite a while, but the assumption that they were all on board with the GOP's criticism has been deeply flawed -- a big chunk of reform's opponents have been from the left, with a sizable group who believe the law is too timid, too limited, and not nearly ambitious enough.

It's why Greg's point is so important: polls that offer respondents a range of options end up offering a better look at the nuances of public opinion. Something to keep in mind as the House vote draws closer.

Steve Benen 4:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (14)

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I would add another explanation.... when people are asked if they support repeal of the health care bill, are do they know what they're being asked? I suspect more than a few people still think the health care bill is a government takeover of healthcare where some bureaucrat will make your medical decisions, you'll be taken away from your private doctor, and grandmama will get put before a death panel.

Posted by: Eeyore on January 18, 2011 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Mod[s] and/or Mr Benen:

Typo in last sentence of 2nd-to-last paragraph; in:

"a bit chunk of reform's opponents have been from the left"

"bit" sb "big"

Posted by: smartalek on January 18, 2011 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

A recent "Have you stopped beating your wife" type poll asked Americans, "Would you rather get hit in the head with (A) a ball peen hammer? Or, (B) a shoe?"

The shoe was chosen, three to one. Regrettably, (C) "Neither" was not an option. . .

Posted by: DAY on January 18, 2011 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

I'm going with the shoe, as well, as should all sensible, patriotic Americans.

Posted by: Robert Moskowitz on January 18, 2011 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

If you don't get hit in the head with a shoe or a ball peen hammer it will kill jobs and increase the deficit, now which one do you want?

Posted by: john R on January 18, 2011 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone know how many GOP's have given up the government (taxpayer subsidized) health care that they and their aides have? I know there was a push for them to do it, and a couple had, but there are lots more to go!

Posted by: js on January 18, 2011 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Only in America would the retarded populace not endorse socialized medicine. At least I've got what you could call "health insurance". I'd be dead or on the dole without it with 2 autoimmune disorders.

Posted by: Trollop on January 18, 2011 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

How many folks are stuck in their current job simply because of health insurance?

How many commenters would move out of state if no health insurance was possible?

Universal catstrophic health insurance for every American.

Anything less is suicide.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 18, 2011 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

IF you are against government-subsidized healthcare, then give up your own, Mr. Weeper of the House.

Posted by: In what respect , Charlie? on January 18, 2011 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

The Cretins' News Network strikes again!

Posted by: TCinLA on January 19, 2011 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

The more simplistic you can paint a problem, the more it benefits the GOP. The more complex the issue, the more it benefits the Democrats. That's why slogans work so much better for the GOP and slogans are so hard to formulate for Democratic positions.

Since Democrats can't do the catchy slogan thing, they should just whup the GOP with a constant does of Socrates. Don't make statements, just ask questions constantly, simple questions, and prove that the issue is far more complex than they grasp. Make them look as simple as they are.

Posted by: Jon on January 19, 2011 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

What this really shows is the result of what Dan Gilbert illustrates to us in "Stumbling on Happiness": that humans cannot predict what they would be happy with, and that we shouldn't even try. Our leaders have a responsibility to set up social systems. Whether those systems follow a particular philosophy doesn't matter. What matters is that they work. The "Affordability Act" wasn't. It is just a lie. If we want affordable health care, we have to put doctors on a good salary, spread the risk over everyone, and see what needs to be done to minimize that risk/cost. In other words, DRAFT the medical system into the military system and if it's good enough for the troops, it's good enough for everyone else. No more of this rhetoric about the Post Office or FEMA as an example of government. Want an example of government? Look at the SEAL teams and other special forces. Want healthy people? Look to the Amish or CSA farmers. Don't use old cock-ups as an example to start a new system, nor as the reason not to start one. Get rid of the paperwork and the insurance companies and hire the best people to be in charge of healthier people. No more of this "choice" lie. Humans are unable to make decisions beyond what is right in front of them. That means the twinkies need to cost a lot more money and we need to get paid without deceptions of the income tax. The first step toward better health in this country is the FairTax. The second step is realizing we don't need health insurance: we need healthy PEOPLE.

Posted by: Dan C. on January 19, 2011 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

The only good part of this is that in having to revisit the whole bill we have an opportunity to finally examine it in more detail. There are some pieces we may want to keep, some we may not but I don't see any point in repealing the whole bill. It is the productive conversation and discussion that we need right now.

Posted by: Jay Banks on January 19, 2011 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Why would CIGNA seek and receive exclusion from Health Care Reform for all 265,000 of it's employees ?

They are "a global health service company"; so they are in the "biz". What do they know that would cause them to not want to participate?

Posted by: Mac on January 19, 2011 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK



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